Background and Purpose:
Proximal humeral fractures are relatively uncommon injuries. While previous research has led to effective clinical and diagnostic evaluation and treatment of proximal fractures, less is currently known regarding the typical evaluation and treatment of midshaft humeral fractures. The purpose of this case is to describe the clinical reasoning and utilization of diagnostic imaging in the physical therapy management of a midshaft humeral fracture, sustained during the course of rehabilitation of a proximal humerus fracture.
A 63‐year‐old female recreational tennis player presented to physical therapy, progressing well following a proximal humeral fracture, sustained 18 weeks prior. During the course of care, the patient had a significant regression in range of motion and function, with increased pain, following a seemingly trivial injury. Based on a cluster of subjective and objective flags, the therapist was concerned about a new fracture. The therapist communicated findings with a physician and recommended plain film radiographs before continuing therapy.
Radiographs showed an oblique displaced fracture extending through the midshaft of the humerus. The patient ultimately underwent surgical plating. At one‐year post injury e‐mail follow up, she had functional mobility of her left arm, and was playing tennis recreationally three times a week.
In this case, a patient who was progressing well following a proximal humeral fracture sustained a separate displaced fracture of the midshaft of the humerus, not associated with therapy. Her reported mechanism was not consistent with a typical injury. This highlights the need for clinicians, specifically physical therapists, to cluster subjective information, objective data, and the patient's medical history when interpreting patient appropriateness for therapy, and to optimize outcomes.
Level of Evidence:
5 (single case report)