There are many forms of Orthopedic Injury, however, the most common include fractures, sprains and strains.
Fracture simply means broken. Bones can be completely or partially fractured and the break could occur in a number of ways (e.g., cross-wise, lengthwise, in the middle, etc.). If the fracture occurs in a hip, knee, ankle or other weight-bearing joint, the injury is considered more serious. This form of damage can lead to lifelong complications including chronic pain or disease.
Sprains and strains are injuries that affect muscles, tendons and ligaments. Sprains are injuries to ligaments and strains are injuries to muscle. These forms of Orthopedic Injury can be acute (rapid onset, but short lived) or chronic (long-lasting and possibly recurrent).
Serious Orthopedic Injury occurs when displaced bones damage nerves and surrounding supportive tissue. When this happens, surgery and surgical implants are often necessary.
An Orthopedic Injury can dramatically impact your life, especially if you are in pain or unable to perform common day to day tasks. Serious injuries are often easy to detect because of an obvious deformity or an exposed bone, but even moderate injuries may require further assessments and treatment. Common Orthopedic Injuries include fractures, sprains and strains.
A fracture is when a bone cracks or breaks. They can happen anywhere in the body, however, a spinal fracture is extremely serious. The most common spinal fractures happen in the thoracic (mid-back) and lumbar (lower back) areas or where the two connect (the thoracolumbar junction).
Types of fractures include:
Compound (open) Fracture
The bone has pierced the skin or the accident that caused the fracture broke the skin. The bone may or may not be visible in the wound. This kind of break is considered more serious as infection to the wound is more likely.
The bone is broken at a right angle to its long axis (i.e., a complete horizontal break).
The bone is broken on one side, causing the other side of the bone to bend.
Three or more bone fragments are broken.
Sprains and strains
A sprain is a stretched or torn ligament (the connective tissue that joins bones together). A ligament supports the body’s joints, enabling movement, such as walking, running, waving, throwing, etc.
A strain is an injury sustained to muscles or tendons. Tendons are the tissues that attach muscles to bone.
Causes and Complications
A fracture can be a result of a number of accidents. The most common causes are:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Impact while playing sports (e.g., being crosschecked in hockey or tackled in football, etc.)
- Violent acts, such as a gunshot wound
When a bone is fractured, it is usually accompanied by a snapping or cracking sound, pain, swelling and deformity.
With a spinal fracture, the primary symptom is moderate to severe back pain that intensifies with movement. If the spinal cord is injured, numbness, tingling, weakness or bowel/bladder dysfunction may occur.
Sprains and strains
Sprains are caused by ligaments being stretched too far and typically occur as a result of a slip, fall or even a motor vehicle accident. A direct blow to the body or an accident that causes the muscles or tendons to overstretch can result in a strain.
A sprain causes various levels of pain, bruising, swelling and inflammation. Sprains can be mild, moderate or severe. Torn ligaments are considered severe and are often accompanied by immediate, excruciating pain and limb instability.
Strains typically include pain, muscle spasm, muscle weakness, swelling, inflammation, and cramping. In the case of a severe strain, the muscle or tendon ruptures, often resulting in incapacitation. Some muscle function will be lost if a moderate strain is sustained.
Doctors usually perform an X-ray to verify fractures or broken bones. Once doctors confirm a bone has been broken, and know which form of fracture they are dealing with, they use external or internal devices to hold the broken bone in position while it heals.
External devices include plaster and fiberglass casts, cast-braces and splints. Internal, or surgical methods, include metal plates, pins or screws that hold the bone together and in place.
In the case of spinal fractures, once doctors have stabilized all other life-threatening injuries, they will decide whether spinal surgery is needed.
Sprains and strains
Arthroscopy is a common procedure that allows doctors to scope injured joints to assess damage caused by a sprain or strain.
RICES (rest, ice, compression, elevation, stabilization) is often the treatment of choice for mild to moderate sprains and strains. Rehabilitative exercise and lower activity levels may also be recommended.
Treatment of almost any Orthopedic Injury includes some form of physical therapy or rehabilitation.
Fractures may take several weeks or months to heal depending on their severity. Even after internal or external support devices are removed, physical therapy is often needed to strengthen the muscles around the healed bone. Ligaments may feel stiff from inactivity.
When a fracture occurs in a hip, knee, ankle or other load-bearing joint, lifelong complications can occur. Serious Orthopedic Injuries can cause chronic pain, including complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), fatigue and disease.
Severe complications can arise with spinal fractures. One potentially fatal complication is blood clots in the legs that can travel to the lungs and cause pulmonary embolism. Pneumonia, pressure sores, and urinary tract infections are also common complications of spinal fractures. If the fracture causes damage to the spinal cord, temporary or permanent paralysis (complete loss of mobility and sensation) may occur.
Sprains and strains
The majority of minor to moderate sprains and strains will often heal with proper rest and treatment. A severe sprain or strain may require surgery or complete immobilization followed by intense therapy. Total joint replacement surgery may be necessary for those with severely acute or chronic joint injuries.
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