Fracture Types in Motorcycle Accidents

There are many types of fractures that occur in a motorcycle accident. Because the legs are usually the first to hit the ground and are unprotected by an automobile, fractures of the tibia, fibula, femur and hip are common. If the force goes all the way to the top of the leg, you get a hip fracture. This involves a fracture of the proximal femur near the ball of the hip joint. The acetabulum or socket part on the pelvis can be fractured as well with the ball pushed up through the acetabulum.

If the leg gives way below the proximal end, you sustain a midshaft femur fracture. This bone is harder to break than a tibial/fibular fracture because the bone is thicker and is protected by more muscle. The tib/fib fracture is perhaps the most common of the severe fractures of the leg. It is not protected by much muscle or tissue so that open fractures are common. This occurs when the bone pushes through the skin, precipitating the chance of severe infection.

The other type of lower extremity fracture seen in motorcycle accident is the ankle fracture. The ankle is not much protected by muscle and tissue and can be fractured on either the medial side or the lateral side. Fractures of both medial and lateral aspects of the ankle are very unstable and require surgery to correct in many cases.

Most leg fractures are unstable because they no longer allow for weight bearing. Transverse fractures occur across the bone and are the most stable. Oblique or spiral fractures are much less stable. Comminuted fractures happen when there are three or more pieces of bone separated from one another. These are more difficult to treat without surgery. Open fractures almost always require surgery, if at least to clean out the area which might be contaminated with dirt or other material. The bone can be treated with a rod pushed down the center of the bone or with screws and plates.

Other fractures seen in motorcycle accidents include pelvic fractures, vertebral fractures, spinal fractures, maxillofacial fractures and skull fractures. Each of these types of fractures can be severe, depending on the circumstances.

One study looked at facial fractures and skull fractures along with traumatic brain injury in motorcyclists who did and did not use a helmet while riding. The population used in the study numbered 5790 who were riders who had a motorcycle accident over a 3 year period of time.

In the study, 24 percent of all riders sustained a facial injury and 411 people suffered from a facial injury. Those who had a facial injury were 3.5 times more likely to also have a traumatic brain injury when compared to those who didn’t have a facial injury. Those who had a facial fracture were more than six times more likely to sustain a traumatic brain injury. People with upper facial fractures had the highest risk of traumatic brain injury. It didn’t seem to matter if the rider was wearing a helmet or not. In fact, facial fractures and traumatic brain injuries were more likely to be seen in patients who were helmeted.