Bone fractures can range from a minor injury like a broken finger to a life-threatening injury like a broken vertebra in your neck. When you suffer a broken bone, you may experience pain and bruising. You could also develop complications like compartment syndrome or nerve damage.
Broken bones can also take a heavy financial toll. Some broken bones require expensive surgery to rebuild or realign them. And you will probably need time off from work while you heal.
Keep reading for an overview of the causes and consequences of broken bones.
What is the Function and Structure of the Human Skeleton?
Your bones include all of the calcified parts of your musculoskeletal system. This definition includes your bones but excludes other musculoskeletal tissue like cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. These tissues have not ossified or calcified into hard material.
Your bones provide structure and support to your body. Although your bones have a little bit of flexibility, they provide the necessary rigidity to hold up your body. You can think of your skeleton as the scaffold that transfers forces through your body to carry your weight.
They also give the muscles leverage as they move your body. As even the small muscles contract or relax, they can move tens or hundreds of pounds by cooperating with your bones.
Even though they consist primarily of minerals like calcium and phosphorus, bone cells are alive. They require oxygen from your blood to support cell metabolism. And they can die from circulatory losses, infections, and diseases.
The bones also play an important part in your circulatory and immune systems. Bones contain bone marrow, the tissue inside your bones that produces blood cells, including red cells, white cells, and platelets.
Your bones have tiny pores for blood vessels. These blood vessels feed your bone cells and pick up new blood cells to replace the old ones removed from circulation by your spleen.
What Are Some Causes of Broken Bones?
Bones fracture when they get subjected to forces that exceed their material strength. These forces come in several forms, including:
Impact forces happen when your body collides with something with a short, sharp force. The impact will usually cause the bones to bend. If the force is too great, the bent bone will fracture.
Impact forces happen when an object hits you. Thus, a car could hit your leg in a pedestrian accident and fracture the bone.
Impact forces can also happen when you hit an object. You could hit your face on your side window during a car accident and fracture your cheekbone.
Compression happens when a force presses on you. A compression force causes crushing injuries. When compression forces press on a bone, they can break it into two or more pieces. If the compression force breaks the bone into three or more pieces, you have a comminuted fracture, the technical term for a shattered bone.
Sometimes you experience forces that do not exceed a bone’s strength. But those stresses can create microscopic cracks in the bone. With rest, the cracks can heal.
When your bone gets subjected to the same stresses repeatedly, the cracks can propagate and form a stress fracture. Stress fractures can happen in workers who perform the same actions for hours on end, like walking, lifting, or carrying.
What Types of Broken Bones Can Occur?
Bone fractures get classified based on the way the bone breaks. Some fractures can happen in almost any accident where you experience traumatic forces.
Other bone fractures develop due to certain types of forces. For example, stress fractures usually include thin breaks that do not cross the entire thickness of the bone. These fractures come from repetitive stress.
Displaced and Non-Displaced Fractures
When classifying broken bones, doctors first look at the alignment of the broken ends of the bone. If the broken ends remain aligned, you have a non-displaced fracture.
Non-displaced fractures require the least amount of medical treatment. Since the ends remain aligned, doctors only need to immobilize the bone with a cast or brace to hold it in place while it heals.
If the broken ends move out of alignment, you have a displaced fracture. Displaced fractures often require surgery to repair them. Doctors need to move the ends of the bone into alignment and secure them together with plates and screws so that they don’t displace before they heal.
One particularly severe type of displaced fracture is a comminuted fracture. As mentioned previously, this fracture often results from crushing injuries and involves a bone broken into three or more pieces.
Doctors need to rebuild the shattered bone after a comminuted fracture. If they cannot restore the bone’s structural integrity or circulation, they may recommend amputation.
Open and Closed Fractures
The next consideration in classifying broken bones is whether the broken ends of the bone pierced the skin. If the skin remains intact, you have a closed fracture.
If an open wound accompanies the broken bone, you have an open fracture, also called a compound fracture. There’s a risk of infection with a compound fracture if debris and microorganisms get into the wound.
What Are Some Complications Caused By Broken Bones?
Broken bones can develop serious complications, including:
Osteomyelitis is a bone infection that results from microorganisms in the bone. Doctors can treat osteomyelitis with antibiotics. But if the infection kills bone cells, doctors may need to amputate the bone to protect the rest of the body.
After an injury like a broken bone, swelling can cut off the circulation below the injury. This can kill the muscles, nerves, and other cells downstream of the injury if you don’t receive emergency treatment.
A displaced bone can tear or stretch nerves. Even after the bone heals, the stretched and torn nerves can cause symptoms like numbness, tingling, and loss of dexterity.
What Compensation Can You Seek for Broken Bones?
You may be entitled to seek compensation if you can prove that someone else’s negligence caused the accident responsible for your broken bones. This compensation will cover your economic and non-economic losses.
Broken bones can cause significant economic losses due to the costs of medical treatment, surgery, physical therapy, and pain medication. They can also cause severe non-economic losses due to pain, mental anguish, and physical disabilities that may accompany broken bones. To discuss the compensation you can seek for your broken bones, contact Brannon & Brannon Personal Injury Attorneys for a free consultation.