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How to Splint a Joint Injury

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

If you came upon a person who had suffered a serious joint injury, would you know how to properly apply a splint? If not, don't worry. This lesson will teach you step-by-step instructions for splinting a joint injury.

Rocky Mountain Trouble

Mike and Nick are brothers who often take hikes together through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. During one recent hike, Mike was climbing over a large rock and slipped, falling about 10 feet to the ground below. When Mike landed, he dislocated his knee. Since they were way up in the mountains, they did not have cell service to call for help.

Luckily, Nick had taken a first aid class that taught him how to apply splints to joint injuries. Using various supplies from their backpacks, Nick properly splinted Mike's knee. Then, Mike and Nick slowly walked back to town and got proper medical help. A doctor who later treated Mike's knee injury told Mike he was lucky that Nick knew how to apply a splint. The doctor explained that the splint probably prevented further (and possibly permanent) damage.

Splinting a Joint Injury

If you were in Nick's situation, would you know how to properly apply a splint to Mike's dislocated knee? If not, don't worry. Here are step-by-step instructions for how to splint a joint injury.

  1. Joint injuries often cause bleeding. If there is bleeding, be sure to follow precautions to prevent the blood from contacting your skin or other body parts. Wear gloves if you have access to them.
  2. If possible, remove any clothing that surrounds the injured joint.
  3. Make sure the injured person is conscious and not critically injured. If a spinal injury is suspected, it is best not to move the person.
  4. Have someone stabilize the injury by holding points above and below the injured joint. (If the joint is badly deformed, it is important that you do not try to reposition the injury. This should only be done by a trained medical professional.)
  5. Check nerve function (electrical impulses that control varies senses and functions in the body) by touching below the injured joint and seeing if the person can feel your touch.
  6. Check motor function (the movement of the skeletal muscles) by having the person move her fingers or toes of the injured extremity.
  7. Check circulation (heart pumping blood throughout the body) by feeling for a pulse on the extremity below the injury.
  8. If there is no movement, sense of touch, or pulse in the injury, try to slightly reposition the joint to help regain nerve function, motor function, and/or circulation.
  9. Find a straight, hard, stiff object that can be used as a splint. This object should be size-appropriate. For example, Nick may have used one or two tent poles to splint Mike's knee. Other objects that can be used for splints include wood boards, strong sticks, and cardboard.
  10. Apply the splint to the injury while someone continues to maintain joint stability by holding above and below the injury. (Knee splints are best applied with the knee bent at a 10 degree angle. Ankle and elbow splints are best applied with the joint bent at a 90 degree angle. Hips and wrists should be straight. Fingers should have their natural curve.)
  11. Secure the splint by wrapping, strapping, or tying the splint to the injured extremity. The clothes that were removed from the injury could be used to secure the splint.
  12. Check for nerve function, motor function, and circulation once again.

When splinting an injury, it
leg splint

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