Americans suffer a lot of broken bones. By the time they reach age 65, over 50% of Americans have broken a bone.
This common injury usually heals fully. But to do so, the injured person may require treatment and physical therapy, and many patients develop complications that may affect their long-term health or even threaten their lives.
Learn more about broken bones and how you can seek compensation for their effects if you’ve been injured in an accident.
What Is the Anatomy of the Skeleton?
Your skeleton is made up primarily of ossified tissue, more commonly called bone. Ossification is the process that occurs when the body uses minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus, to build bones. These minerals make your bones rigid and strong, but this rigidity also means that they fracture under stress instead of stretching or bending.
Despite being composed of minerals, your bones are alive. Bone cells, like all of the cells in your body, require nutrients to survive and multiply. Your bones contain passages for blood vessels that feed the bone cells oxygen and other nutrients.
These passages also form connections to the bone marrow. Bone marrow is a soft, spongy substance that lies at the center of most of your bones. It produces new blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Blood vessels running through the bones pick up the new blood cells created by the bone marrow and add them to your blood supply.
Your bones provide a rigid scaffolding for your body — they support the weight of your organs and tissues and provide the leverage and stability required for movement. They do this with the aid of two essential types of soft tissue: ligaments and tendons.
Ligaments connect bones to other bones at the joints, while tendons anchor bones to muscles. Together, the bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles make up what’s known as the musculoskeletal system.
What Types of Broken Bones Can Happen?
Bones break when they encounter forces that exceed their structural strength. They can also break after being exposed to enough low but repetitive stress over time.
Doctors first classify fractures by whether the ends of the bone remain aligned after the break. In a non-displaced fracture, the broken ends remain in their correct positions; in a displaced fracture, they do not. Displaced fractures are considered more serious because doctors must first realign the broken pieces before immobilizing the bone to promote healing.
The next level of classification concerns whether the fracture has created an open wound. A closed fracture doesn’t pierce the skin and therefore doesn’t leave a wound. Closed fractures can be either displaced or non-displaced.
With an open fracture, also called a compound fracture, the broken bone tears through the flesh, resulting in an open wound. Open fractures are always displaced. They typically cause severe bleeding and expose the body to infection.
Doctors further characterize broken bones by the nature of the fracture or the force that caused it. Examples of the different types of fractures include:
A transverse fracture occurs when a bone breaks across its long axis. This usually happens when the bone snaps under a bending force exerted by a hard, direct impact, as in the case of a car accident.
A comminuted fracture, also known as a shattered bone, happens when a bone breaks into at least three pieces.
Comminuted fractures usually result from crushing injuries, like those caused by falling objects or moving vehicles. They can also happen when a body part gets trapped in a machine or piece of equipment in a workplace accident.
In an avulsion fracture, a ligament or tendon tugs on the bone and causes a small piece of bone to break off. As a result, you have a loose ligament or tendon with a bone fragment attached.
These fractures occur when a force hyperextends a muscle, tendon, or ligament. Suppose that you were involved in a slip and fall accident and tried to catch yourself by grabbing a handrail. You might hyperextend the muscles in your arm, suffering an avulsion fracture in your elbow or shoulder as a result.
Impacted fractures occur when a bone becomes compressed along its long axis. The bone buckles, and the broken ends are forced toward one another.
As with transverse and comminuted fractures, these types of breaks often happen when you try to brace yourself from a collision. For example, throwing your arms out in front of you as you fall may produce an impacted fracture in your wrist or arm.
How Do You Treat Broken Bones?
To treat a broken bone, doctors need to ensure that the broken ends are aligned. In a displaced fracture, doctors must manipulate the bone or even perform surgery to maneuver the broken ends back into alignment. For an open fracture, doctors will also clean and close up the surrounding wound.
They must then immobilize the bone fragments so the body can heal the fracture. Oftentimes, a cast or brace will provide enough support to sufficiently immobilize the bone. In some cases, like those involving comminuted fractures, doctors must secure the bone fragments with plates, rods, or screws.
With immobilization and rest, bones usually heal completely on their own. For simple fractures, the healing process may take six to eight weeks. But severely broken bones, like comminuted fractures, may take up to a year to heal fully.
What Complications Can Arise From Broken Bones?
Broken bones can cause many associated complications, including:
- Nerve damage
- Soft tissue damage
- Blood clots
The effects of these complications could extend your recovery time, cause permanent disabilities, or even threaten your life.
What Compensation Can You Seek for Broken Bones?
If you have broken bones resulting from another party’s negligent actions, you may be eligible for compensation.
You can seek compensation for both economic and non-economic losses. Economic damages are the financial costs of your injuries, such as medical costs, lost wages, and diminished earning capacity.
Non-economic damages encompass all the ways that your injuries can diminish your overall quality of life, including chronic pain, suffering, inconvenience, and disability.
Broken bones often lead to at least temporary disability, and they come with the risk of more permanent disabilities like arthritis. You don’t have to face these hardships alone. Contact our personal injury attorneys Anderson Injury Lawyers to receive a free consultation and learn more about how to recover damages for your broken bones.