Five Generations of Broken Arms

Two weeks before the end of kindergarten, trying double cartwheels at the edge of the soccer field, CJ twisted her arm the wrong way and broke it.

A cartwheel doesn’t sound like something that should break an arm, but evidently six-year-old arms are made of something like dry spaghetti. CJ’s wasn’t the first broken arm in her kindergarten class; that honor belonged to her friend Lexy. When Lexy broke her arm, CJ felt jealous of her cast. “I thought it would be fun to break my arm,” CJ said, “but actually, it kind of hurts.”

CJ didn’t want to get an X-ray because Lexy had told her that X-rays were painful. We assured her that X-rays don’t hurt nearly as much as broken arms. She submitted.

CJ’s X-ray is part of a long family tradition. In April 1896, in Hamburg, Germany, CJ’s great-great-grandfather hurt his arm while playing with his brother. A week later he was still favoring the arm when his parents read that the Hamburg hospital had bought a device that could take pictures of bones using “a new kind of ray” that had been discovered just four months earlier. At the hospital, his X-ray, one of the first taken in Hamburg, showed that his arm was broken, too.

Here is CJ’s X-ray along with her great-great-grandfather’s. Two X-rays of broken arms from the same family, taken 120 years apart.

7 months after writing this post, I broke my arm myself.

2 broken arms.jpg


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