Broken bones are some of the most common traumatic injuries. An average American will break two bones during their lifetime. Doctors treat 6.8 million bone fractures every year. Of these, about 3 million happen due to osteoporosis and old age.
Nearly all broken bones will disable you for at least a few weeks while you recover. In some cases, your bones will take several months or longer to heal. And many patients will develop complications like arthritis and blood clots. As a result, you could require emergency surgery or long-term treatment.
The Structure and Function of Your Skeleton
Your skeleton performs several functions. The rigid structure of your bones acts as a scaffolding for your body. Your skeleton holds your body up and provides leverage to your muscles so they can move it. Certain bones also protect vital organs. Your ribcage protects your heart and lungs, while your skull protects your brain.
Bones have a mineral matrix. Calcium and phosphorus make the bones strong and stiff. But the matrix also has openings throughout. Blood vessels run through these gaps to deliver oxygen to the bone cells and pick up new red cells, white cells, and platelets produced in the bone marrow. These new cells replace old, worn-out cells filtered from the blood.
Bones meet at joints. Strong bands of tissue called ligaments hold the bones together. They guide and limit the movement of the joints to prevent you from damaging them.
Tendons anchor muscles to the bones. These connective tissues work with your muscles to move your bones and give you strength. By contracting or relaxing the muscles, you can move your body to do everything from typing to running.
How Do Bones Break?
Bones break when the forces on them exceed their inherent strength. Small cracks form. With additional force or repeated application of force, these cracks propagate. They can even grow into a fracture across the whole thickness of the bone.
These forces can happen in many ways, including:
An impact on your body can break your bones. For example, a car can break your femur when it hits your leg. In fact, your body experiences two impacts that could break your bones in a pedestrian accident — the initial impact with the vehicle and the secondary impact with the ground.
Crushing forces get applied over an area. These forces can happen instantly. A falling object could instantly crush your foot. The forces can also take time to crush you. Your arm could get caught in a factory machine that breaks the bones as it slowly crushes you in a workplace accident.
Bending or Twisting Forces
A bone can snap when subjected to twisting or bending forces. A bending force happens when the ends of the bone move toward each other. A twisting force occurs when the ends of the bone turn relative to each other. In either case, the force can overcome the bone’s structure and crack it.
For example, in a car accident, your seat belt pushes on your ribs. They cause the ribs to bend. With enough displacement, the ribs can fracture.
Stress on your body causes small cracks and tears to form in your tissues. Your body heals this damage with rest. In fact, your body heals stronger, allowing you to strengthen your muscles and bones with exercise.
But if you do not rest, the damage spreads. A microscopic crack in your bone can grow. The repeated stress on your bone will eventually cause a stress fracture. These injuries often happen in the workplace when workers spend long hours standing, lifting, or walking.
How Are Broken Bones Classified?
Broken bones are classified based on three characteristics, including:
Did the Broken Ends Move Out of Alignment?
When you break the bone, but the broken ends remain aligned, it’s called a non-displaced fracture. As a result, your doctor only needs to immobilize the bone with a cast or brace. The broken ends will grow together, healing the bone.
A displaced fracture happens when the broken ends of the bone shift out of alignment. Doctors must realign the bones before putting on the cast or brace. If your doctor fails to realign the bones, the break might not heal or take much longer to heal.
Doctors can realign the bone through external manipulation. This process avoids the need for surgery, but doctors have less flexibility in what they can repair.
They can also operate to realign the bone and secure it using screws and plates. This procedure gives doctors more freedom to realign severely displaced bones. But it costs more and opens the door to infections.
Did the Bone Pierce the Skin?
If the ends of the bone displace far enough, they can tear through the skin. You have an open fracture when this happens. A closed fracture occurs when the bone does not pierce the skin.
Combining two of the characteristics of fractures, you can have:
- An open, displaced fracture
- A closed, displaced fracture
- A closed, non-displaced fracture
By definition, you cannot have an open, non-displaced fracture.
What Is the Nature of the Fracture?
Doctors also categorize fractures by nature or shape. This information can explain how your injury happened. The shape of the fracture will also tell you how long your injury will take to heal.
Some examples include:
- Spiral fractures result from twisting forces
- Avulsion fractures occur when a tendon or ligament pulls off a small piece of bone
- Buckle fractures happen when bones get compacted lengthwise
- Comminuted fractures occur when bones shatter into three or more pieces
A comminuted fracture, for example, will require reconstructive surgery to reassemble the bone and may take a year or longer to heal.
What Complications Can Result From Bone Fractures?
Bone fractures can lead to long-term or even life-threatening complications, including:
If you fracture your bone near a joint, you might experience excessive wear in the joint after it heals. This wear can produce arthritis in the joint characterized by pain and inflammation.
Your bone heals by developing a clot over the fracture. You can develop a pulmonary embolism when a piece of the clot breaks off and travels to your lung. There, the clot blocks the blood vessels connecting the heart and lungs.
As a result, you will experience:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Oxygen deprivation
Without emergency treatment, you might suffer permanent lung injuries or even die.
How Can You Pursue Compensation For Broken Bones?
You can seek compensation when someone else’s actions caused your injury. You can recover compensation for your financial losses and expenses. You can also get compensation for the reduction in your quality of life.
A bone fracture can cause pain and disabilities lasting weeks, months, or even years. Contact our experienced attorneys from Roderick C. Lopez Personal Injury Lawyers at (956) 529-7336 for a free consultation to learn how we can help you pursue compensation for bone fractures caused by someone else’s actions.