Broken bones are a common injury. Approximately 50% of people suffer a bone fracture before turning 60; past that age, the rate of bone fractures climbs even higher due to a loss of bone density.
A fractured bone usually heals in a little over a month without complications. But some broken bones can take up to a year to heal or lead to recurring or permanent disabilities.
What Is the Structure of Your Skeleton?
Your musculoskeletal system includes both bones and soft tissues like ligaments and tendons. Together, these tissues provide structure and strength to your body and make movement possible.
Your bones are composed of ossified tissue. Ossification happens when your bone cells use minerals to create a rigid matrix that makes them lightweight but strong.
Bone cells are alive and continuously replace existing cells in your skeleton. They also heal fractures in the bones. As a result, your bone cells can repair broken bones relatively quickly.
To perform their work, bone cells need oxygen and nutrients. Your bones have tiny openings throughout their structures, allowing blood vessels to feed the bone cells.
Your bones also play an important role in your circulatory and immune systems.
Bone marrow sits at the center of the large bones. It produces new red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. As the cells in your blood wear out, the spleen filters them from your blood. The blood then picks up replacement cells from the bone marrow.
How Do Bones Break?
Bones fracture when they encounter a force that exceeds their material strength. Just as a metal pole can snap when it gets hit by a powerful force, a bone can also snap as a result of trauma.
Some forms of trauma that can break a bone include:
Forces that bend or twist bones can cause them to snap.
For example, you could fracture a bone if your arm gets trapped and bent by a machine in a workplace accident.
Bones can break when something strikes the body with sufficient force.
Crushing trauma happens when the body becomes compressed.
Crushing trauma could break bones when a car runs over your leg during a pedestrian accident, or you could suffer a shattered foot if something heavy falls on it at work.
What Types of Broken Bones Can Occur?
Doctors use three factors to identify and categorize bone fractures:
Displaced or Non-Displaced
When classifying a fracture, doctors often look at whether the bone fragments remained in alignment or moved out of alignment.
In a non-displaced fracture, the ends of the bone stay in alignment after the fracture. Doctors can simply immobilize the bone with a cast or brace, allowing the body to heal with time. With a displaced fracture, the bone fragments don’t align. To help these injuries heal properly, doctors must realign the fragments before immobilizing the bone.
Sometimes they can set the bone back into alignment by manipulating the injured area. But often, the ends have displaced so far that the doctor needs to operate. During surgery, the doctor will realign the bone fragments and secure them using plates and screws so they don’t move back out of alignment.
Open or Closed
In an open fracture, one broken end of the bone displaces so far that it protrudes from the body. Also referred to as “compound” fractures, these injuries often require surgery to realign the broken bone, repair the torn soft tissue, and close the open wound.
In a closed fracture, no open wound occurs. Closed fractures include all non-displaced fractures and displaced fractures where the broken ends only displace slightly. To treat a closed fracture, doctors must realign the bone fragments and stabilize the broken bone.
The Shape of the Fracture
The final criterion used to classify fractures is shape.
The shape of a fracture can often tell you how long it will need to heal. It can also tell you whether you can expect any long-term consequences from the injury.
Some common fracture shapes include:
Simple (or Transverse) Fracture
A simple fracture happens when a bone breaks across its central axis. In other words, the bone snaps just as a pencil would break if you bent it in half.
Transverse fractures often result from bending forces or direct impacts on the bone.
Spiral fractures happen when the bone becomes twisted. As a result, the break appears to spiral around the surface.
A comminuted fracture occurs when you shatter your bone into three or more pieces. Since at least one of the pieces is floating loose, your doctor will need to reconstruct it using plates and screws to ensure that it heals properly.
Comminuted fractures often take a year or longer to heal.
Stress fractures typically result from overuse. They’re almost always non-displaced and closed.
In many cases, the stress fracture doesn’t completely dissect the bone. Instead, it may only appear as a hairline crack in the bone.
How Can You Seek Compensation for Broken Bones?
If you’ve broken a bone in an on-the-job accident, you can seek medical and partial disability benefits through your employer’s workers’ compensation policy. You can receive workers’ comp benefits regardless of the cause of the accident as long as it happened at work.
You can seek compensation for non-work injuries if your accident was caused by someone else’s negligent actions. If you prove negligence, you’re entitled to seek compensation for:
- Economic damages such as medical bills, lost wages, and diminished earning capacity
- Non-economic damages such as pain, suffering, and disability
A broken bone can prevent you from working. Sometimes, you may even need assistance meeting your daily needs.To review your case and find out more about the compensation you may be able to seek for the effects of broken bones, contact our law firm Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation at (314) 444-4444.