When you suffer a chest injury, you can experience substantial pain. You can also face life-threatening damage to your lungs and heart.
Learn some facts about chest injuries and the compensation you can seek after suffering a chest injury.
The Anatomy of Your Ches
The thorax (also known as your chest) includes the musculoskeletal structures that protect the chest cavity. Most of the time, doctors do not use “chest” to refer to the organs inside the chest cavity.
Thus, a chest injury only includes injuries to the protective cage directly and not organ injuries. Doctors usually describe injuries to the organs inside the chest cavity as “thoracic injuries.”
Your chest includes your ribs. You have twelve pairs of ribs for a total of 24 ribs, all of which form a joint with your spine in your back. Ligaments hold the 12 pairs of ribs to 12 vertebrae in your thoracic spine.
The upper seven pairs of ribs, called the true ribs, attach directly to the sternum in the front of your chest. Cartilage connects the true ribs to the sternum.
The following three pairs of ribs, called the false ribs, attach to the true ribs rather than the sternum. Again, cartilage connects the false ribs to the true ribs.
The lowest two pairs of ribs, called the floating ribs, only attach to the spine.
Intercostal muscles sit between the ribs. These muscles help your chest expand so you can inhale. Your chest muscles, such as your pectoralis muscles at the front of your body and the latissimus dorsi in your back, sit over the ribs. The muscles over your chest connect to your ribs, sternum, collarbones, shoulder blades, and spine.
What Are the Causes of Chest Injuries?
Chest injuries can result from three main forms of trauma:
Penetrating trauma occurs when something pierces your chest, leaving an open wound. In addition to damaging the chest tissues, a penetrating injury can become infected.
This sort of trauma can happen as a result of bicycle, motorcycle, or pedestrian accidents. For example, in a bicycle accident, riders can fall onto their handlebars and impale their chest.
Job accidents can also cause penetrating chest trauma. A tool or sharp object can get propelled into a victim’s chest, or a worker can slip and fall onto a sharp object like a protruding nail or piece of rebar.
Blunt trauma happens when an object hits your chest but doesn’t leave an open wound. One of the most common car accident injuries is blunt-force chest trauma. In a car crash, your chest hits your locked seat belt, potentially injuring it.
Hyperextension happens when your chest gets stretched beyond its capacity. This can happen even if you do not hit your chest. For example, you could hyperextend your chest by twisting during a car crash.
Your chest could also get hyperextended if you were to try to catch yourself during a slip and fall accident by grabbing onto something. Your weight could pull and hyperextend your chest.
What are the Different Types of Chest Injury?
Chest injuries can take many different forms depending on the structures you injure.
Bruises form when trauma causes a blood vessel to burst under the skin. For example, a seat belt sits directly over the sternum and ribs, and so car collisions often cause a bruise by causing the belt to squeeze the soft tissue between the seat belt and bones.
Bruises cause pain, swelling, and discoloration, but they usually heal in a few weeks with home treatment.
Chest Strain or Sprain
Chest strain happens when chest muscles and tendons get stretched or torn. These injuries often occur due to hyperextension or a penetrating injury.
Symptoms of a strained chest include:
- Chest pain
- Muscle spasms
You may suffer a sprain when the ligaments holding your ribs to your spine get stretched or torn. Chest sprains also happen in the aftermath of hyperextension injuries.
Symptoms of a sprained chest include:
- Pain in the back of the chest
- Limited range of motion
- Popping sound or feeling in the back during the injury
Sprains and strains will usually heal on their own over time, and doctors rarely operate to treat a strained or sprained chest.
Forces on the ribs can tear the cartilage holding the rib in place. When the rib cartilage tears, the rib may move out of its normal position and cause symptoms such as:
- Pain, particularly when inhaling
- A rib that feels loose
- Popping sound in the front of the chest during the injury
A dislocated rib will usually move back into place as the swelling subsides. You might take anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce the swelling. The cartilage heals slowly, so you might experience symptoms for weeks or months after your accident.
A rib fracture can result from a blunt or penetrating blow to the chest. A fractured rib causes pain and swelling. But while torn cartilage or sprained ligaments cause pain near the sternum or spine, a broken rib can cause pain along the rib itself.
Doctors usually do not do anything to treat fractured ribs. In the past, doctors would tape the chest to help stabilize fractured ribs. But they no longer do this because taped ribs can cause shallow breathing, leading to pneumonia.
Broken ribs can cause complications like a collapsed lung if the rib punctures the chest wall, allowing air to leak into the chest and squeeze the lung. The pressure on the lung prevents it from expanding when you inhale. A collapsed lung can cause permanent damage or even death without emergency treatment.
Compensation for a Chest Injury
You can seek injury compensation when your accident resulted from someone else’s negligence. To prove negligence, you must show that the other person failed to exercise reasonable care.
If you prove negligence, you can seek compensation for your economic and non-economic losses. Your financial losses may include your medical costs and lost income, while your non-economic losses include personal losses like pain, lost sleep, mental anguish, and inability to participate in activities. A chest injury can cause considerable pain and potentially expose you to life-threatening conditions like a collapsed lung. Contact us at the Law Offices of Mathys & Schneid for a free consultation or call us at (630) 428-4040 to discuss your chest injury and the compensation you can seek for it.