Accidents are common causes of soft tissue injuries and can occur anywhere on the body. Soft tissue injuries are those that cause trauma to the ligaments, muscles and tendons. They are in contrast to hard tissue injuries to the bones. There are two main categories of soft tissue injury. They are injuries from trauma or overuse and stress. The vast majority of soft tissue injuries secondary to trauma occur in an accident. Overuse injuries are those that can result from work-related incidents or repetitive acts or from playing sports.
Here we’ll concentrate on soft tissue injuries related to the trauma of motor vehicle accidents. Let’s look at what soft tissue injuries are, how they are treated and the repercussions related to whiplash.
Structures Involved in Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries involve the following structures:
- Muscles: Muscles are made up of fibers that both protect and lend stability. They attach to bones by tendons and are instrumental in movement.
- Tendons: These are cords of tough fibrous tissue made of collagen that attach the muscle to the bone.
- Ligaments: Ligaments are short cords of fibrous connective tissue that is flexible and connects two bones or holds a joint together.
Common Soft Tissue Injuries
Accident trauma that damages soft tissues can include contusions, lacerations, avulsion or abrasions. The first type of injury is a closed wound injury, meaning that the skin has not been broken. The other three are open wound injuries.
- Contusions: Contusions cause bleeding underneath the skin. However, because this is a closed wound injury, the blood becomes trapped. Swelling, pain and bruising occurs.
- Sprains: Sprains represent ligament damage, which can be caused by an accident or the joint being hyperextended. Ankles, knees and wrists are commonly sprained and can range from mild to severe. A severe sprain may tear a ligament, and make the joint nonfunctioning. Bruising, swelling, pain and inflammation are common signs of a sprain.
- Tendonitis: Tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendon. It can occur from an injury or by doing repetitive movements. Carpenters, baseball players, gardeners and others can develop tendonitis without the presence of injury. Occasionally, tendonitis may result from a dog or other animal bite. Tendonitis is usually treated with anti-inflammatories, exercise, splinting and steroids. In severe cases that show persistent inflammation, surgery may be necessary.
- Lacerations: Lacerations are open wounds with ragged edges that expose the tissue beneath the skin’s surface. Accidents are a common cause of cuts as the body comes in contact with a sharp piece of metal, wood, glass or other substance. Depending on the depth and width of the injury, bleeding may be extensive. Lacerations often require sutures. If the tear is deep enough, it cuts into tissue and muscle layers and might sever a tendon or ligament.
- Punctures: Punctures are caused when a pointed object enters the body. A puncture requires a tetanus booster and treatment to avoid infection. Punctures often pass through the soft tissues and into the muscles.
- Avulsion: An avulsion removes pieces of skin or the tissue underneath. These injuries can occur due to motor vehicle accidents, dog attacks or industrial accidents. If the avulsion extends around the extremity, pulling away layers of tissue, it is called degloving. Getting a ring finger caught on a piece of machinery is a common cause of degloving. In some cases, amputation of the digit it necessary. Emergency medical treatment is necessary for avulsion and degloving injuries.
- Abrasions: Abrasions affect the skin and are categorized the same way burn injuries are. A first-degree abrasion affects only the top skin layer. Second-degree affects the second skin layer called the epidermis and lower layer, called the dermis. A third-degree abrasion affects all of the skin layers. Abrasions are common in motorcycle accidents or falls, but this type of injury can occur in several ways. In more serious abrasions, a skin graft may be necessary to help repair the damage. Damage to the soft tissues under the skin is frequently a problem.
Risk of Soft Tissue Injury
Soft tissue injuries are often experienced when a previous injury has affected the same area. This can sometimes cause problems for a client since the insurance company might claim that the pain and other symptoms they are suffering come from a previous injury in the same spot. Your attorney will need to refute this.
Calling in a medical expert and the person’s doctor to testify that the symptoms their client is having were not there prior to the accident is an important step. While the injured party may have had similar symptoms in the past, the doctor/expert can show they resolved with therapy. In some cases, it might be shown that not only did the current accident cause symptoms but that it reactivated a previous injury that would not have been reactivated unless the accident occurred.
Soft Tissue Injury After a Car Accident
While many soft tissue injuries are minor and heal with time, others can end up causing long-term pain and mobility problems. The most common issues include whiplash and back pain.
Whiplash from a Car Crash
Whiplash, or cervical strain or sprain, happens in a car accident as a result of the neck moving rapidly back and forth on impact. Pressure on the cervical nerves can occur as well as damage to the muscles and ligaments. This type of injury does not always present immediately and may not appear for days following an accident, particularly if the crash was minor such as a rear-end collision.
Although many cases of whiplash resolve themselves in a short time, others may become a chronic condition with symptoms lasting for years. Because soft tissue injuries do not appear on X-ray, documentation of the accident is important.
Symptoms of whiplash can include:
- Neck pain and stiffness
- Increase of pain while moving the head or body
- Pain in the shoulder, arm or between the shoulder blades
- Difficulty turning the head
- Tingling and numbness in the upper extremities
Soft Tissue Damage in Back After a Car Accident
Back pain is often associated with soft tissue injuries. Painful spasms can occur, which are involuntary contractions of the muscle fibers. The pain caused by back spasms can be excruciating and may be a steady pain or come in waves.
Back pain caused by an accident happens because the body may be thrown forward, backward or sideways suddenly. The hyperextension that can occur in an accident can cause the muscles, tendons or ligaments to stretch and tear. Symptoms include pain that starts suddenly, is sharp and is persistent. Swelling at the site may occur also.
Winning a Soft Tissue Injury Car Accident Settlement
If you are experiencing a soft tissue injury as a result of a car accident, we can help. The Law Offices of David Azizi can provide you a free review of your important soft tissue injury claim to help you achieve justice and fair compensation. For a trusted car accident lawyer, contact us online or call (800) 991-5292.