Bone fractures are very common injuries. Americans suffer over 18 million broken bones every year, with children and seniors particularly vulnerable to these injuries. About half of all Americans break at least one bone before age 65.
Most of these broken bones will heal without any complications in about eight weeks. But during these two months, you could have significant disabilities that prevent you from working or performing your household tasks. And some bone fractures cause permanent disabilities and life-threatening complications.
What Is the Structure of Your Bones?
Bone cells form bones using calcium and phosphorus. These minerals form a porous matrix that is both rigid and light.
Bones also have an important role in your circulatory system. Bone marrow produces new red cells, white cells, and platelets. Your blood picks up new blood cells as it passes through the bone marrow. These cells replace old cells filtered from your blood by your spleen.
Bone structure is important when you suffer a bone fracture. Bone cells can rebuild bones using minerals delivered by the blood by forming a blood clot over the break in the bone.
How Do Bones Fracture?
Bones fracture when they experience forces that exceed their material strength. These forces can be applied to the bones in many ways.
An impact on the bones can transfer enough energy to crack them. An example of this type of force comes from the impact of your body on the ground after a fall. In a slip and fall accident, you may fall backward as your feet lose traction. When your head hits the ground, your skull can fracture.
When a bone bends too far, it can snap. If your chest strikes your seat belt in a car accident, the force of the seat belt on your sternum can bend your ribs. If they bend too far, they will fracture.
Your bone can fracture when its ends turn relative to each other. An example of this injury arises in a workplace accident in which your arm gets trapped in a machine. The force of the machine twists your bones, fracturing them.
Crushing forces happen when a force is applied over an area. These forces can shatter bones into small pieces. Some causes of crushing forces include falling objects and moving vehicles. Thus, a car could crush the bones in your foot when it drives over it if you fall to the ground during a motorcycle crash.
When you stress your body, bones develop tiny cracks, and muscles develop microscopic tears. Your tissues heal with rest. These cracks and tears will propagate when you repetitively stress your body instead of resting.
How Are Broken Bones Classified?
Doctors classify broken bones using three characteristics.
Displaced or Non-Displaced
The displacement of a fracture identifies how far the broken ends of the bone have moved out of alignment. The bone remains aligned in a non-displaced fracture. Doctors only need to stabilize a non-displaced fracture with a cast or brace. The bone will heal within six to eight weeks.
By contrast, a displaced fracture has some misalignment in the:
Before stabilizing the fracture, doctors must realign the bone. They have two options for accomplishing this. In some situations, they can manipulate the bone fragments externally. This option requires no surgery. But in many situations, doctors must operate to set the bone. In either case, the doctor must fit the fragments together like puzzle pieces.
Most importantly, if the doctor does not set the bone correctly, you must return to the doctor to have it re-set. To do this, the doctor will break the bone and realign it before stabilizing it with a cast.
Displaced fractures are also susceptible to developing complications. A fractured bone might increase the stress on nearby joints even when set correctly. The joint can develop osteoarthritis over time.
The bone fragments can also tear through blood vessels and nerves when they move out of alignment.
Nerve damage caused by the torn, stretched, or compressed nerves can cause symptoms such as:
- Muscle spasms
Swelling can squeeze off blood vessels, causing a condition called compartment syndrome. In this condition, tissues experience a lack of blood flow. Tissue death can result unless you obtain immediate treatment.
Open or Closed
A fracture is “open” if the bone shifts so far that it tears through the skin. A closed fracture has no open wound to accompany it. Closed fractures can be displaced or non-displaced. Open fractures are always displaced.
Open fractures are susceptible to infections. If pathogens get into the open wound, they could multiply quickly. They will compete with your cells for resources. They may even release toxins to gain an advantage in this battle.
A transverse fracture happens across the long axis of the bone. This fracture looks like a straight line across the bone in an X-ray. A transverse fracture typically results from an impact or a bending force.
Spiral fractures look like a curved line around the axis. They result from twisting forces applied to the bone.
Impacted fractures happen when the bone gets compressed into itself. To envision an impacted fracture, imagine what would happen when you apply pressure to the ends of a pencil. It would buckle into itself, bending and crushing unpredictably.
Comminuted fractures often result from powerful impacts. Another name for a comminuted fracture is a shattered bone. These fractures happen when a bone breaks into three or more pieces. Your doctor must reassemble the bone using plates and screws. Once reassembled, the bone could take a year or longer to heal.
Stress fractures result from overuse. Repetitive stresses can cause a microscopic crack in the bone to grow until the bone is partially or fully broken.
Can I Get Compensated For Broken Bones?
You can pursue compensation for broken bones that occurred in accidents and other incidents caused by someone else’s actions. The compensation you seek can cover both non-economic and economic damages.
Past and future medical expenses and income losses are included in economic damages. Any diminishment in your quality of life is covered under non-economic damages. Examples include pain, mental anguish, disability, and disfigurement.
In most cases, a broken bone will cause at least partial disability during the six to eight weeks you wear a cast. In some situations, it can produce permanent disabilities and serious complications. Contact Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers at (602) 595-5559 for a free consultation to discuss how we can help you pursue fair compensation for your injuries.