Kids are breaking their bones in unprecedented numbers. From the early 1970’s to the early 2000’s, broken forearms in children have increased by a striking 40 percent, according to data published in the September 17, 2003 Journal of the American Medical Association. The change is most dramatic in girls (up 56 percent), but is significant in boys (up 32 percent).
In girls, the peak age for these fractures is 8 to 11; in boys, it is 11 to 14. The timing may relate to their growth spurts, with increased calcium needs and perhaps changes in their activities and coordination. The data give us clear information on what is happening, but my question is, why?
Why do you think broken bones are more common now than they were before? Are bones weaker today because of inadequate calcium? Because of decreased exercise to strengthen the bones? Alternatively, are healthy bones subjected to stronger forces today from increased activity? Or from a higher rate of skateboarding, rollerblading, and scootering? The remarkable trend in broken bones deserves good research to sort out its causes.
In the meantime, I suggest that kids engage in fun outdoor activities safely, and with the right equipment. I also suggest making sure kids get plenty of calcium and plenty of weight-bearing physical activity to build strong bones for a lifetime. Otherwise, I fear that this increase in benign fractures in kids will be a warning sign of a dramatic increase in serious hip fractures when these kids become older adults.