According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), more than 8,000 motorcycle accidents occur each year on Florida’s roads and highways, resulting in almost as many injuries and hundreds of deaths. Aside from pedestrians and cyclists, bikers have the least protection while sharing the road with other vehicles. Also, motorcycles can travel at high speeds, creating an immense force upon impact when a collision occurs.
This impact leads to severe injuries that can affect every part of the body. A blunt impact to the head and torso is a description of two separate kinds of traumas bikers can experience in a collision. If you or a loved one has suffered severe injuries from a motorcycle accident, it can be in your best interest to contact a motorcycle attorney as soon as possible.
Until you have the chance, we have provided this guide to shed more light on injuries to the head and torso that you have experienced or could experience in a motorcycle accident, including descriptions, examples, complications, and common treatments.
What Is Blunt Impact?
Typically, when you hear the words blunt impact in an injury description after any type of accident, it refers to blunt trauma or a blunt force trauma. These traumas occur as a result of a forceful impact from direct contact with an object. You can think of them as the opposite of penetrating trauma, which refers to injuries where something penetrates the body. With regard to a motorcycle accident, penetrating traumas might occur if a piece of glass or metal pierces the skin, causing any kind of open wound.
Blunt force traumas impact the head and/or the chest or torso because these are where our body organs are located. They can lead to serious internal injuries and damage that can cause lifelong complications for motorcycle accident victims. In some cases, blunt impact to the head or torso can lead to death.
Blunt impacts can lead to a wide array of injuries. Their severity depends on the cause of the injury as well as any underlying conditions a motorcycle victim has.
Medical professionals typically classify blunt impact injuries into four categories:
- Contusion. A contusion is a fancy name for a bruise. Contusions occur when the force from a motorcycle accident ruptures tiny blood vessels, called capillaries, right below the surface of the skin.
- Abrasion. An abrasion is a medical term for a scrape. It is common for motorcycle accident victims to suffer road rash, which is multiple abrasions all over the body because of the friction between their body and road surface when thrown from their bike during a collision.
- Laceration. A laceration is another name for a superficial cut that occurs from a blunt impact. Lacerations do not penetrate the body, but they are a source of infection and can leave permanent scars.
- Fracture. When the blunt impact of a motorcycle collision applies enough force to one or more bones, fractures occur.
With an understanding of the main types of blunt impact injuries, we can dig deeper to provide more specific information about blunt impact injuries to the head and torso.
Blunt Force Head Trauma Injuries
Blunt force head trauma injuries can include skull fractures and scalp injuries, yet the most severe are traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Motor-vehicle related traffic accidents, including those that involve motorcycles, are the number two cause of traumatic brain injuries, and TBIs are the leading cause of death in those younger than 25. Blunt force head traumas lead to brain contusions, concussions, diffuse axonal injuries, and more.
When a contusion or bruising on the brain occurs after a motorcycle accident, victims can experience swelling or develop a hematoma, which is the pooling of blood on the brain. Approximately one in three patients with moderate to severe TBI suffer cerebral contusions. Concussions occur when the brain moves inside the skull back and forth. The same movement can lead to a diffuse axonal injury which is when the brain makes a twisting movement that stretches and tears neurons in the brain.
Complications from a Blunt Force Head Trauma
Blunt impact to the head can lead to a variety of injuries that cause long-term complications. About 25 percent of those who suffer concussions face post-concussive symptoms including headaches, dizziness, inattention, and depression.
Depending on the severity of a traumatic brain injury, accident victims can suffer other long-term consequences, including motor deficits, physical effects, cognitive effects, speech and language effects, sensory effects, visual effects, hearing effects, smell and taste effects, and behavioral effects.
- Motor deficits refer to brain damage that interferes with motor skills and mobility, such as paralysis, difficulty with walking, talking, and eating, and difficulty carrying things.
- Physical effects include sleep disorders, pain, seizures, loss of stamina, and changes in appetite.
- Cognitive effects include the inability to concentrate or focus, confusion, difficulty with memory, slow information processing by the brain, and difficulties with abstract and logical thinking.
- Speech and language effects include struggles with reading, writing, speaking, and understanding language.
- Sensory effects refer to challenges with interpreting information received from the five senses and difficulty with perception on multiple levels.
- Visual effects include total or partial loss of vision, blurred vision, double vision, and light sensitivity.
- Hearing effects include hearing loss, ringing in the ears, and increased sensitivity to certain noises and sounds.
- Smell and taste effects include loss of taste, loss of smell, or a persistent bad taste in the mouth, typically metallic.
- Behavioral effects include depression, increased aggression, lethargy, and social inappropriateness.
Treatment After Blunt Impact to the Head
After suffering head trauma from a motorcycle accident, you need to get checked out by a physician right away. Doctors cannot typically reverse brain damage, but they can prevent more damage from occurring. Mild concussions and other mild brain injuries sometimes heal completely without intervention, and if accident victims are fortunate they do not need to deal with any of the above consequences. In other cases, recovery and rehabilitation can include a wide range of therapies to treat symptoms and help accident victims cope with any loss of function.
- Physical therapy to help victims cope with lost motor skills and rebuild any muscle and range of motion lost as a result of the head trauma.
- Occupational therapy to help motorcycle accident victims learn how to do old tasks in new ways and work around any permanent disabilities.
- Speech and language therapy to help accident victims relearn how to communicate or work on their reading and writing skills.
- Mental health services so accident victims can learn how to overcome and cope with the emotional struggles that sometimes come with head trauma.
Blunt Impact Injury to the Torso
If a biker suffers a blunt impact to the torso during a motorcycle accident, he or she risks damages to the chest and abdomen. Contusions and lacerations can occur internally and put body organs at risk for damage and failure. Similarly, a blunt force trauma to the torso can lead to fractured ribs that cause internal bleeding or organ damage.
Medical professionals refer to the area of the spine that runs from the neck to the abdomen as the thoracic region. Blunt trauma to the thoracic region during a motorcycle accident can result in devastating chest wall injuries, pulmonary injuries, and cardiovascular injuries.
Chest Wall Injuries
Your chest wall is composed of the tissues and bones that protect your vital organs including your heart, lungs, liver, and major blood vessels. Additionally, your ribs, sternum, and spine make up the bones in your chest wall. Injuries to this area are dangerous because they impact ventilation, make it difficult to breathe, and can lead to respiratory failure.
Examples of chest wall injuries from blunt trauma include:
- Broken ribs and a fractured sternum. Fractured ribs are the most common major chest injury; more than 50 percent of cases involving blunt impact to the torso lead to broken ribs. Rib fractures can lead to lacerations of the liver and spleen and cause heart issues.
- Flail chest. A flail chest occurs when three or ribs are fractured at two or more locations, creating an unstable chest wall that “flails” around. A flail chest is almost always associated with a pulmonary contusion and typically results in hypoxia, or inadequate oxygen, making it difficult to breathe.
Blunt force trauma can cause severe pulmonary injuries, which refers to any lung-related injury.
- Pulmonary contusion. Bruised lung tissue is present in more than 20 percent of patients who suffer a blunt trauma to the torso. The rapid deceleration in a traffic accident is the major cause of pulmonary contusions. When tiny blood vessels burst, they leak blood into the lungs and cause complications.
- Pneumothorax. This refers to a collection of air in the space between the lung and the inside of your chest wall. A pneumothorax often occurs when ribs puncture parts of a lung, allowing air to escape. Ultimately, a pneumothorax can lead to a collapsed lung.
- Hemothorax. A hemothorax is similar to a pneumothorax, except blood collects in the cavity between the lungs and chest wall. This can occur as a result of damage to arteries and can also cause lung collapse.
- Traumatic asphyxia. This occurs when the force of impact on the chest from a motorcycle accident leads to reverse blood flow from the right side of the heart to the large veins in the head and neck.
When a biker suffers cardiovascular injuries from a blunt impact to his or her torso, the consequences can be deadly.
Common cardiovascular injuries from blunt impact to the torso include:
- Pericardial tamponade. This is the accumulation of blood within the membrane that surrounds your heart. It forces extra compressions of the heart. Pericardial tamponades are far more common with penetrating traumas than blunt force traumas to the chest, but it can happen.
- Blunt cardiac trauma. This is a term to describe a range of injuries that include a heart concussion, heart contusion, and a heart rupture. Like the brain, the heart can suffer damage from impact when it moves around in its cavity. Blunt force can also bruise the heart and cause one of the walls to rupture.
- Blunt aortic injury. These types of injuries refer to small tears in the inside layer of an artery, and they are almost always fatal. Motorcycle accident victims who suffer a blunt aortic injury have a 90 percent chance of dying at the site of the accident or within hours of admission to the emergency room.
Treatment and Complications From a Blunt Force Chest Trauma
Blunt force traumas to the chest result in often life-threatening injuries. Although motorcycle accident victims can suffer long-term damage to the lungs, heart, or other organs, care is often focused on immediate recovery and avoiding death. Surgery is often necessary for these types of injuries, and doctors typically include chest physiotherapy and respiratory care early on. Immediately treating rib fractures early on is of the utmost importance.
Not only can mobilizing fractured ribs prevent more internal injuries, but it helps with pain relief. Chronic severe pain causes people to lose their appetite, have difficulty sleeping, and experience emotional stress. Additionally, rib fractures prevent people from participating in their normal daily activities, including going to work.
The Financial Impact of Blunt Impact Injuries
Blunt impact injuries to the head and torso are among the most costly types of personal injuries. The most severe injuries are life-threatening. Even minor injuries, like broken ribs, can lead to much bigger problems. Treating severe blunt impact injuries typically requires a certain amount of hospitalization.
As motorcycle accident victims rack up medical expenses for doctors, surgery, and therapies, if they cannot work, this can devastate their household. This is especially true if the accident victims provided a large portion of household income.
Taking legal action to recover compensation for your injuries can mitigate some economic damage from a motorcycle accident. Contact a motorcycle accident lawyer as soon as possible to determine your eligibility for compensation.