Bone fractures are some of the most common traumatic injuries that accident victims sustain. Doctors treat over 6.8 million bone fractures yearly, and the average American will break two bones during their lifetime.
Thankfully, most broken bones heal without any long-term complications. But during the healing process, an accident victim can (and likely will) experience significant disabilities. In some cases, further complications may arise, ranging from blood clots to arthritis.
The Function and Structure of Your Skeleton
Your musculoskeletal system comprises your bones and soft tissues.
In particular, your skeleton performs several functions in your body, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Giving your body structure
- Providing leverage to your muscles
- Protecting your internal organs
Your bones get their rigid structure from a matrix of minerals, including calcium and phosphorus, and the bones’ cells use nutrients from your blood to create, maintain, and repair that matrix. Without the “scaffolding” provided by your skeleton, your body would collapse.
What’s more, your bones also play a role in your immune and circulatory systems. Bone marrow in the center of your larger bones produces new blood cells. The blood vessels running into and out of your bones pick up these new red cells, white cells, and platelets, replacing worn-out blood cells that your spleen removes.
Like all body cells, bone cells need oxygen delivered by the blood for cell metabolism, which converts oxygen into energy and proteins. Your bones have tiny openings that allow blood vessels to deliver oxygenated blood to your bone cells while removing carbon dioxide waste.
What Can Cause Broken Bones?
Bones break when subjected to forces greater than their inherent material strength. The force needed to break a bone will vary depending on the bone structure.
Smaller bones, like facial bones, can break under much smaller pressure than a larger bone, like your femur. Older people often have much more brittle bones than younger people, making them much more susceptible to fractures.
Some types of forces that can break bones of any size include the following:
Impacts are often characterized by short, sharp forces, which can be enough to break a bone. For example, if you are hit by a car in a pedestrian accident, you could break a bone in the primary impact of the vehicle, or you could fracture a bone in the secondary impact of you hitting the ground.
Bending forces can cause a bone to snap. For instance, your leg could get caught under your dashboard during a car accident, causing it to bend awkwardly and break.
Torsion forces can twist a bone until it fractures. You could experience these types of bone fractures in a ski accident in which someone runs into you and causes your legs to twist as your body goes in one direction and your skis go in another.
Crushing forces are usually applied over an area of your body, and they can shatter one or more bones into multiple pieces. Dog bite injuries are common examples of fractures caused by crushing forces.
Classifying Types of Bone Fractures
Doctors classify bone fractures using three characteristics that denote the treatment you need and how long you will need to heal. These particular characteristics are as follows:
Displaced or Non-Displaced
The displacement of a fracture describes how far the broken ends of the bone have been moved. In a non-displaced fracture, the broken ends remain aligned, and a doctor will immobilize the bone using a cast or brace so the ends can heal together.
In a displaced fracture, however, the broken ends become misaligned because one or both of the ends has moved during your accident. In many cases, displaced bones will require surgery.
Before casting or bracing the bone, your doctor will need to realign the broken ends into contact with each other, which they can do by manipulating the broken bone, pulling, and turning it back into place.
Open or Closed
A closed fracture occurs without producing an open wound, and the fracture itself can be either displaced or non-displaced. These fractures have a lower risk of infection and may even heal faster, as doctors will not need to close any torn skin.
An open fracture, also called a compound fracture, happens when your broken bone displaces far enough that it punctures your skin, producing an open wound from the inside. Open fractures have a much higher risk of infection than closed fractures, and they can also include complications like nerve or vascular damage.
Treating an open fracture requires the treatment of both an open wound and a displaced fracture. After realigning the bone, the doctor will repair the soft tissues to the fullest extent possible before closing the wound.
Nature of the Fracture
The shape or form of your fracture can affect both its treatment and prognosis. A simple fracture, for example, refers to a break across the bone’s axis, which usually heals with few complications.
A comminuted fracture (or shattered bone), on the other hand, can take up to a year to heal. Such an injury occurs when a bone breaks into three or more pieces, and it is treated by doctors reconstructing the bone using screws and plates to hold the fragments together.
What Types of Complications Can Arise From Broken Bones?
Broken bones can produce a range of complications. Some of the most common include the following:
Infections form when pathogens enter your body through an open wound. The harmful microorganisms multiply and may even release toxins as they compete with your body’s cells for resources.
When you suffer from an infection, your body will respond by swelling and developing a fever. These responses are meant to trap and kill pathogens, but they also make you extremely ill.
If an infection reaches your broken bone, you can develop osteomyelitis, a type of bone infection that can cause it to degrade and become deformed and weak.
Suppose that you break a bone near or at a joint. When it heals, it might not remain aligned, which means you might experience grinding and wear at the joint, eventually developing into osteoarthritis.
Your body heals broken bones by forming a blood clot over the fracture, which works to protect the fracture as it heals. However, if a piece of the blood clot breaks off, you could develop deep vein thrombosis or even suffer a pulmonary embolism.
How Can You Get Compensation For a Broken Bone?
You can pursue a personal injury claim for broken bones caused by someone else’s negligent or intentional actions. If you establish liability, you can seek compensation for your economic and non-economic losses.
Economic losses include the financial costs of your injury, such as the income you lost due to work you missed while recovering. Non-economic losses cover the diminishment in your quality of life, along with your pain, mental suffering, and temporary or permanent disability.
Contact Zaner Harden Law to discuss your broken bones and the compensation you may be entitled to under Colorado law.