Bone fractures are surprisingly common. Over half of Americans will break a bone before they turn 65. In many cases, the bone will heal properly and cause no further complications.
But in some situations, a broken bone can cause substantial hardship. You might need surgery to reset and support the bone, and you could miss substantial time from work while it heals. You may even experience long-term complications, such as arthritis, after it’s healed.
Here are a few things you should know about broken bones and the compensation you can seek for them.
What Is the Function of Your Body’s Bones?
Bones are different from other body tissues because they contain a mesh built of minerals like calcium and phosphorus. These minerals give bones their rigidity and strength.
Your bones provide support and structure for your body. They need the strength to withstand the forces your body might experience. They also provide leverage for your muscles to move your body.
Bones are made up of living cells that need oxygen to live. Your bone cells receive oxygen from the blood, and your bones contain small channels for blood vessels.
In addition to feeding your blood cells, these blood vessels pick up new cells in your bones. The marrow in the center of most of your bones produces new red cells, white cells, and platelets. These new cells replace old cells filtered from your blood by your spleen.
What Are Some Causes of Broken Bones?
The strength of a bone depends on many factors, including its shape and chemical composition. The dome shape of your skull dissipates force, for instance, and its thickness resists fractures. But the long, thin shape of the bones in your foot means that these bones can easily break if you drop something on them.
Some of the forces that can break a bone include:
A powerful impact can snap a bone. For example, when you slip and fall, the impact of the floor against your hip can fracture it.
Compression forces involve force being transferred directly into a surface. They can fracture or even crush bones. Dropping a heavy object on your foot in a job-related accident, for example, can fracture the delicate bones in your feet.
Bending forces can fracture the long bones in your body. For example, in a side-impact collision, your door can buckle inward when it gets hit. This can trap you between your door and center console, bending and snapping the bones of your arms or legs.
Twisting forces often come into play when part of the body gets trapped in a machine. They can also happen when you slip and try to grab something to stop your fall. Twisting forces can torque your bones and fracture them.
When you stress your bones, they develop microscopic cracks. With rest, these cracks will eventually heal, but they’ll continue to grow under repetitive stress. Over time, they can develop into full-blown fractures.
What Types of Broken Bones Can Occur?
The type of break will influence the treatment of your broken bones. It will also determine your prognosis for recovery and the possible complications you might face.
Doctors classify broken bones based on three criteria:
Displaced or Non-Displaced
In a non-displaced fracture, the bone breaks, but the broken ends remain aligned. With the ends aligned, doctors only need to stabilize the bone with a cast. Non-displaced fractures typically heal in around six weeks.
In a displaced fracture, the broken ends move out of alignment after the break. Doctors first need to realign the bone before stabilizing it. They can often do this by manipulating the bone.
If they can’t manually get the bone back into place, however, they may need to operate. They’ll start by surgically exposing and realigning the bone. They’ll then stabilize it with plates or screws before closing the incision and wrapping the fracture with a cast.
Displaced fractures will usually heal in six weeks with rest.
Open or Closed
In a closed fracture, a bone breaks without puncturing the skin. In an open fracture, the broken bone displaces so far that it penetrates the skin and creates an open wound. Open fractures are also known as compound fractures.
Doctors treat compound fractures the same way they do other displaced fractures. The greatest risk from a compound fracture comes from infection. If bacteria get into the open wound, the vulnerable tissues can become infected. In the worst-case scenario, the infection can even spread to the bone, causing osteomyelitis.
Doctors classify fractures based on the pattern formed. Some types of fracture patterns include:
Stress fractures result from overuse. They usually look like thin, non-displaced cracks in the bone.
A comminuted fracture happens when a bone breaks into at least three pieces. Doctors must then reconstruct it using plates or rods. The hardware holds the fragments together while the bone heals.
Comminuted fractures, also called shattered bones, can take up to a year to heal.
Tendons and ligaments attach to bones. An avulsion fracture happens when a tendon or ligament tugs hard enough to break off a piece of bone. Avulsion fractures sometimes require surgery, which revolves around reattaching the connective tissue to the rest of the bone.
What Complications Can Result From Broken Bones?
Most broken bones heal without complications. But occasionally, broken bones can cause other health problems, including:
Arthritis develops as joints wear out. A fracture near a joint can also lead to arthritis.
As your broken bone heals, blood will naturally clot over the break site. If a piece of this clot breaks off, it can travel through your veins to your lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism. This life-threatening condition prevents your blood from receiving enough oxygen to feed your body.
What Compensation Can You Seek for Broken Bones Caused By Someone Else’s Negligence?
If someone else’s negligence caused your broken bones, you might be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Compensation can cover both economic losses, such as medical costs and lost income, and non-economic losses, such as pain, suffering, and disability.
Broken bones can require anywhere from six weeks to a year of rest and therapy. This can cause severe financial difficulties if you’re unable to work until the bones have healed. To discuss the compensation you can seek for these and other hardships, contact a personal injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Mathys & Schneid for a free consultation.