How to Splint a Broken Arm With Cardboard

 To immobilize a broken arm, make sure to immobilize the fracture site as well as the joints above and below the fracture.

Cardboard splints work very well for splinting broken arms in the field.


Items You'll Need

Items for splinting a broken arm
Items Necessary to Splint a Broken Arm Necessary items include cardboard splint, padding, scissors, gauze, and tape. Rod Brouhard

To adequately splint a broken arm, you will need a cardboard splint, towels for padding, bandage scissors, roller gauze, and tape. Other items can be used to immobilize the broken arm. Anything that secures the broken arm and immobilizes it will work.


Assessing the Break

Assessing a broken arm
Assess the Arm Before Splinting Assess the broken arm before splinting. Rod Brouhard

Determine the location of the broken bone and assess the arm to make sure victim can still move fingers, feel touch, and has circulation to his or her hand.

Assess the broken arm by feeling the area of the broken bone. Deformity, crepitus (a grinding feeling under the skin), or discoloration may be present in the area of the fracture. In most cases, the victim will just feel pain and tenderness near the injury.

Assess the victim's circulation, sensation, and motion in the hand.

  • Ask the victim to identify which finger is being touched.
  • Ask the victim to move fingers.
  • Feel the victim's fingers to see if they are as warm as the hand on the unbroken arm.

Cutting the Splint

Cutting a cardboard splint
Cut the Splint to Size Cut and shape the splint. Rod Brouhard

Cut the cardboard splint to the correct size.

If the cardboard is too long, cut it to size. In this case, cuts are made to help shape the splint.


Shaping the Splint to the Arm

Folding a cardboard splint
Shape the Splint to Fit the Broken Arm Fold the splint to wrap around the arm. Rod Brouhard

Shape the splint to fit the broken arm.

Fold the splint to wrap around the arm.


Bending the Splint

Bend the splint up around the elbow
Bend the Splint to fit Around the Elbow Bend the splint up to fit around the elbow. Rod Brouhard

Bend the splint up to fit around the elbow.

After the splint is cut, bend the splint up to fit around the elbow.


Folding the Splint

Folding a cardboard splint
Fold the Flaps to Finish the Splint Finish the splint by folding the flaps closed. Rod Brouhard

Fold the remaining flaps to finish the arm splint.

Finish the splint by folding the remaining flaps around and tape them in place.


Padding for the Splint

Padding a splint with towels
Pad the Splint Use towels to pad the splint. Rod Brouhard

Pad the splint with a towel or other padding.

Pad the splint with towels or other padding before placing it on the broken arm.


Positioning the Arm in the Splint

Fit broken arm into padded splint
Place Broken Arm into Padded Splint Place broken arm into padded splint. Rod Brouhard

Position the broken arm into the padded splint.

Correctly position the broken arm into the padded splint. Make sure fit is snug, but not tight.


Position of Function

Roller gauze in hand maintains correct position
Put Hand in Position of Function Holding roller gauze keeps hand in correct position. Rod Brouhard

Placing a roller gauze in the hand will maintain the position of function.

Put something in the victim's hand to maintain the position of function. The position of function is achieved when the fingers are slightly curled.​


Fill the Voids

Additional padding fills voids around broken arm
Pad Voids Around the Broken Arm Fill voids around broken arm with more padding. Rod Brouhard

Fill voids around the broken arm with additional padding.

Fill all voids (spaces) between the broken arm and the splint with additional padding. The rule: avoid the voids.


Secure the Splint Around the Arm

Use tape or gauze to secure the splint in place
Secure the Splint Around the Broken Arm Secure the splint with tape or roller gauze. Rod Brouhard

Secure the splint around the broken arm with tape or roller gauze.

Wrap the splint snugly around the broken arm. The splint should support the broken arm on all sides and immobilize the arm above and below the broken bone. In this example, the broken arm is immobilized from the elbow to the wrist.


Check Arm for Movement

A top view of the splint
Another View of the Splint The broken arm fits snugly in the secure splint with no movement. Rod Brouhard

Once the splint is attached, the broken arm should be securely immobilized.

When the broken arm is secured in the splint, the arm should not be able to move.


Reassess Functionality

Check function of the hand after splinting the broken arm
Reassess Broken Arm for Circulation, Sensation, and Motion Recheck function after splinting. Rod Brouhard

After the arm is splinted, reassess the functionality.

After the broken arm is secured in the splint, reassess the hand to determine if function and circulation are still intact. Recheck circulation, sensation, and motion.


Reduce Swelling With Ice

A cold pack reduces swelling
Ice or Cold Packs Reduce Swelling Use cold to reduce swelling. Rod Brouhard

Use ice or a chemical cold pack to reduce swelling.

Place ice or a cold pack on the injury to reduce swelling. For chemical cold packs, follow the manufacturer's directions. Never place ice directly on skin.

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