Rural & Remote First Aid

 Important pieces of First Aid equipment for Rural environments – Formable Splints

Important pieces of First Aid equipment for Rural environments – Formable Splints

Sprains and Strains and broken bones! They can be anything from inconvenient to debilitatingly painful! Either way, it’s going to interrupt your ability to work and play. And often it will be hard to tell the difference between a broken bone and a soft tissue injury. There have been many occasions where the soft tissue injury is more painful than a break!

So how do you determine the difference? Well, there are only 3 ways to be sure a bone is broken;

1. You can see it the end of it! If the injury has been severe enough to break the bone and then have the bone poke through the skin, then I think you can be sure.

2. Gross deformity. The limb or joint is completely out of normal alignment. For example, the forearm turns sharp left halfway between the elbow and the wrist. Another solid clue.

3. X-ray. Even then sometimes it may not be conclusive but it’s pretty solid generally.

So anything that looks like it COULD be a break, even if it turns out to be a soft tissue injury, should be treated for the worst case scenario, which is assuming a broken bone. We call this the ‘Pay off’ principle. Always assume the worst injury and treat for that as a priority.

Now, if medical aid is inside 25-30mins from your location, then deal with any immediate injury such as bleeding, protruding objects, etc. as normal and then make your patient as comfortable as possible and make sure to check colour, movement, temperature and sensation beyond the break site. You might use a pillow, jumper or get them to hold it securely themselves (depending on the location of the injury).

Outside of that time frame and following the immediate care needs, we really need to be thinking about splinting to provide stabilisation and support and to minimise ongoing movement, which is likely to cause more pain and potentially damage.

Enter the Formable Splint. Also known as a Sam Splint in many circles (don’t confuse it with the Pelvic Sam Splint. We will talk about them another time).

Legs, ankles, wrists, forearms, Upper arms can all be splinted readily using one of these Formable Splints. It sure beats trying to improvise with sticks or tools or the like! So the key thing with these splints is to pre-mould them as much as possible to support the injured area. So look at the patients injury site carefully and then shape the splint as much as possible to match. Don’t use the patient to mould the splint! I hope this is obvious, but I thought I’d better mention it just in case. Use your own arm (or leg, etc.) and then estimate any differences and adjust to suit. Place the splint along the injured part and bandage, taking into account the shape of the injury and the pain of the patient. Be sure not to cover the extremities of the limb. Reassess the colour, movement, temperature and sensation of the parts beyond the break site (fingers or toes, generally).

Once done, the next step is to immobilise the joints above and below the break site. But we will save this for another post.

Formable splints come in a ranger of sizes and therefore a range of costs. Finger versions will set you back less than $10 and the larger/longer versions are usually between $20 and $30 depending on retailer. I recommend a minimum of 2 of the larger versions for your kit.

I hope this has helped you in making good First Aid kit additions.

If you like any help or have any questions please don’t hesitate to email us on or call us on 0491 057 339.



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