Greenstick fractures are most common in infants and children. Youthful bones are soft and somewhat flexible, and can bend before breaking. The name comes from an analogy: a green piece of wood will similarly bend before it cracks; unlike a dry, dead branch, which will snap in two under the same pressure. Greenstick fractures are sometimes called “willow breaks” for the same reason.
In a greenstick fracture, the bone bends and partially breaks. Often, the crack is difficult to see on an X-ray image. This can make diagnosing a greenstick fracture problematic. Pain, redness and swelling may indicate the injury, and the bent bone may be evident when X-ray images are taken from multiple angles.
Treatment and Recovery
If the bone is set and not re-injured, the victim of a greenstick fracture will usually recover fully, with no long-lasting effects. Depending on the location of the fracture, doctors may splint the injury or put a cast on the limb.