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Extremity Injuries in a Traumatic Accident

extremity trauma

Traffic accidents often happen when we least expect them. If you have been injured in an accident due to the negligence of someone else, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. Motor vehicle accidents often result in traumatic extremity injuries. This could be an upper extremity (arm) or lower extremity (leg). 

Injury to your extremities commonly occur as a result of the following scenarios:

  • Bracing at impact during a motor vehicle crash
  • Passenger compartment intrusion in an automobile crash
  • Being hit directly by a car as a pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorcyclist
  • Being thrown from a motorcycle or other vehicle
Common Types of Upper Extremity Injuries

There are a whole host of traumatic injuries that can affect the upper extremities. A few examples are listed below:

  • Fracture of the shoulder
  • Dislocation of the humerus (“funny bone”)
  • Humeral shaft fracture
  • Elbow Fracture
  • Radial and ulnar fractures
  • Wrist fracture
  • Fracture of the hand or fingers

Many times, when a person becomes aware that their vehicle is about to be hit by another, they will brace themselves for the impact by tightly gripping the steering wheel and extending their arms. This is a natural reaction, but it can result in severe upper extremity injuries.  

Upper extremity injuries are not limited to those that affect bones, such as fractures and dislocations, such as those listed above. Soft tissues of the body, including muscles, tendons, nerves, and ligaments, can also be injured. Contusions, strain/sprains, and lacerations are a few examples of soft tissue injuries.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a cumulative type of injury that affects the median nerve of the arm. This can occur when the nerve is impinged due to either repetitive or sudden trauma. 

Common Types of Lower Extremity Injuries

Serious car accidents with major impact forces often result in traumatic injuries to the lower extremities - the pelvis, legs, and/or feet. Some examples of lower extremity injuries include:

  • Pelvic fractures
  • Hip fractures
  • Femur fractures
  • Patellar fracture
  • Tibial and/or fibula fractures
  • Ankle fractures
  • Foot/toe fractures
  • Dislocation of the patella
  • Dislocation of the hip

Additionally, as is the case with upper extremities, there are nerves, tendons, and ligaments throughout the lower half of the body that is particularly susceptible to the forces of impact. For example, one common lower extremity injury occurs when a person applies the brakes at the time of impact and sustains a hip dislocation or severe tearing of the pelvic ligaments. Another injury frequently seen in car crashes is known as “dashboard knee.” This occurs when the patella is slammed into the dashboard at impact, causing a patellar fracture and/or torn ligaments, which often require surgical repair. 

Causes of Traumatic Extremity Injuries

Car crashes are not the only cause of traumatic extremity injuries. Other scenarios in which these types of injuries can occur include:

  • Motorcycle accidents
  • All-terrain vehicle accidents
  • Falls from a great height
  • Bicycle accidents
  • Altercations
  • Falls from a standing position
  • Sports-related accidents
Diagnosis of Extremity Injuries 

Usually, the first step in diagnosing an extremity injury is a plain film x-ray on the affected area to assess bone fractures. Plain x-rays will not properly diagnose soft tissue injuries, however. Injuries to soft tissues such as ligament tears and soft tissue swelling may be diagnosed using other types of imaging such as a CT scan or MRI scan.  Regarding a suspected nerve injury, the doctor may order an electromyogram or nerve stimulation test to check nerve function in the area of the injury. 

Treatment of Extremity Injuries

There are several treatment options for extremity injuries, depending on the severity. Examples include:

  • Application of ice to the swollen or painful areas
  • Immobilization of the affected limb or joint
  • Bracing and/or casting
  • Surgery - sometimes with internal fixation of a fracture
  • Physical therapy

The recovery phase of extremity injuries is often prolonged. Even relatively minor sprains and strains can take a long time to heal. 

Complications From Extremity Injuries

Not all extremity injuries heal perfectly, and there can be long-term complications, including:

  • Permanent deformity of the extremity
  • Lack of complete function
  • Lack of nerve function
  • Poor circulation related to the injury
  • Limb amputation is due to a failure of the injury to heal or as a result of a severe crush injury.

To understand more about extremity trauma, watch this YouTube video from Stryker:

If you or a loved one has suffered extremity trauma due to someone else's negligence and wants to discuss your legal options with a seasoned  Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer, or call us at 916.921.6400 to set up a FREE consultation or contact us online

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Editor's Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy. [cha 7.19.21]

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