Pediatric fractures dropped by 2.5-fold during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, but more breaks happened at home and on bicycles, and younger kids were more affected, new research indicates.
The study of 1,745 patients also found that those with distal radius torus fractures were more likely to receive a Velcro splint during the pandemic. Experts said this key trend points toward widespread shifts to streamline treatment, which should persist after the pandemic.
“We expected to see a drop in fracture volume, but what was a bit unexpected was the proportional rise in at-home injuries, which we weren’t immediately aware of,” said senior author Apurva Shah, MD, MBA, of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
“As time went on, it became more apparent that trampoline and bicycle injuries were on the rise, but at the beginning of the pandemic, we didn’t intuitively expect that,” he added.
“Whenever there’s a major shift in how the world is working, we want to understand how that impacts child safety,” Dr. Shah said in an interview. “The message to get out to parents is that it’s obviously difficult to supervise kids while working from home” during the pandemic “and that supervision obviously is not always working as well as intended.”
Joshua T. Bram, a medical student, presented the study at the virtual.
Dr. Bram, Dr. Shah, and colleagues compared patients with acute fractures who presented at CHOP between March and April 2020 with those who presented during the same months in 2018 and 2019.
Overall, the number of patients with pediatric fractures who presented to CHOP fell to an average of just under 10 per day, compared with more than 22 per day in prior years (P < .001). In addition, the age of the patients fell from an average of 9.4 years to 7.5 years (P < .001), with fewer adolescents affected in 2020.
“I think when you cancel a 14-year-old’s baseball season” because of the pandemic, “unfortunately, that lost outdoor time might be substituted with time on a screen,” he explained. “But canceling a 6-year-old’s soccer season might mean substituting that with more time outside on bikes or on a trampoline.”
As noted, because of the pandemic, a higher proportion of pediatric fractures occurred at home (57.8% vs. 32.5%; P < .001) or on bicycles (18.3% vs. 8.2%; P < .001), but there were fewer organized sports–related (7.2% vs. 26.0%; P < .001) or playground-related injuries (5.2% vs. 9.0%; P < .001).
In the study period this year, the researchers saw no increase in the amount of time between injury and presentation. However, data suggest that, in more recent months, “kids are presenting with fractures late, with sometimes great consequences,” Dr. Shah said.
“What has changed is that a lot of adults have lost their jobs, and as a consequence, a lot of children have lost their access to private insurance,” he said. “But fracture is really a major injury, and this is a reminder for pediatricians and primary care physicians to recognize that families are going through these changes and that delays in care can really be detrimental to children.”