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About serious orthopaedic injuries

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Orthopaedic injuries can have far-reaching consequences, and the problems that people encounter can vary dramatically. We've looked at some serious orthopaedic injuries that people can experience, and how this can affect different areas of their lives.

Serious orthopaedic injuries can include:

  • Serious fractures
  • Multiple fractures
  • Serious muscle damage
  • Serious ligament damage
  • Serious tendon damage

These can be as a result of many different types of accidents including serious road traffic collisions, falling from a height, dangerous machinery in the workplace, serious assaults and slips or trips.

Serious fractures

An injury which results in bones being cracked, crushed or broken is referred to as a fracture. There are five main types of serious fractures. These are:

  1. Complete fractures where the bone shatters into two pieces.
  2. Comminuted fractures where the bone shatters into more than three pieces, usually when it is crushed.
  3. Fracture dislocations where a dislocated joint causes a fracture to a nearby bone.
  4. Compound fractures where a wound causes a fracture to the bone, or the bone breaks and penetrates the skin.
  5. Complicated fractures where an injury is caused to other parts of the body, such as nerves or blood vessels, caused by the fracture.

Fractures are usually caused by a trauma to the bone. When the bone is put under severe pressure, it can break or snap, causing a fracture. They can also be caused by being put under regular heavy stress, which puts the bones under strain, causing bending and cracking of the bones. This includes heavy lifting and manual handling injuries.

Serious muscle damage

Serious muscle damage occurs when muscles pull and tear. This damage can result in someone experiencing severe ongoing pain, as well as limited movement and function.

Trauma to the muscle can cause bruising as well as the muscle being torn or ripped. If the skin isn’t broken by the trauma, then the muscle will usually just become seriously bruised. However, if the skin is torn it is more likely for the muscle to have sustained a rip or tear.

Muscles can become damaged when they are overstretched, causing the fibres in the muscles to be torn. This can happen when the body and its muscles are moved into unusual positions, either in a road traffic accident or a slip or fall for example.

Overuse of muscles can also cause serious injuries to occur. If a muscle is used continuously over a prolonged period of time, small damage such as tears and rips can occur, which may become more severe if the muscle is not rested and given time to repair. When muscles are overused they can become weakened and be more susceptible to injuries occurring.

Serious ligament damage

Ligaments are located inside joints and connect bones to one another. Their job is to stop the body performing certain movements and over stretching itself, which could cause injury to other parts of the body. If a ligament is torn or sustains damage, it can make the joint become unstable. This instability can last for a prolonged period of time and can sometimes require surgery in order to repair the ligaments and make the joint more stable.

However, some people will not be able to have this surgery due to scar tissue in the joint. This scar tissue will be as a result of the original tear or damage to the ligament. When surgery is not an option, you are more likely to develop further complications such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis as a result of the ongoing instability in the joint.

As with fractures and muscle damage, many ligament injuries are caused by a trauma to the area. Ligaments are quite rigid in nature and do not stretch and move easily. An accident or trauma can easily put them under stress and cause them to break.

Ligaments often tear or break due to twisting movements being applied to the joint. This puts a lot of pressure on the ligaments and causes them to stretch, and due to their rigidness, break.

Some types of fractures can also put pressure on ligaments and cause them to break or become detached from the bones.

Serious tendon damage

Tendons work as shock absorbers where they connect bones to muscles. They take on tension in the joint, as they are designed to take the strain away from muscles and bones by being strong and flexible.

When a tendon ruptures it will usually repair itself, but it will not return to its full functioning as it was before the damage. They are also far more susceptible to further injuries once they have been damaged. Ruptured tendons also take a long time to heal and can have serious consequences on someone’s life.

Trauma and impacts can cause tendons to rupture. Alike to muscles and ligaments, the stress a trauma puts onto the tendon can cause it to rupture. Putting too much stress onto the tendon by lifting heavy objects can also cause it to rupture. If the tendon is stretched in the opposite direction to its usual direction, it is much more likely to rupture and sustain injury.

A serious injury can also reduce the blood flow to certain areas of the body. This reduced blood flow can weaken tendons and also cause damage.

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