Many of the millions of bones that are broken in the U.S. each year have a name you may not be familiar with, like a Colles' fracture for example. Unfortunately, there's a decent chance you or someone you know has experienced one.
The radius bone is the lower-arm bone that's closest to your thumb. The distal end of this bone is the one closest to your hand (as opposed to your elbow). When this end of the distal bone is broken, it's called a distal radius fracture or a Colles' fracture -- named for 19th-century Irish surgeon Abraham Colles, who first described it. You probably know it as a broken wrist.
Broken wrists are most common before the age of 75 because this fracture is often caused during physical activity, such as skiing, biking or skateboarding. It's the most common fracture of any bone in the arm [source: AAOS]. The majority of these fractures occur approximately 1 inch away from the end of the distal bone, most commonly as a result of trying to stop a fall, or any other action that forces the hand backward.
One major problem that accompanies a fractured wrist is a tendency to self-diagnose the injury as something other than a fracture. If medical attention isn't sought, the bone may grow back improperly resulting in a change in the joint's functioning that wears down cartilage and leads to chronic arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome.
Older people are the most likely to experience the type of broken bone we'll learn about in the next section.