Lower Extremity Motorcycle Injuries

The motorcyclist and the motorcyclist’s passenger are in particularly vulnerable positions. Their openness to the world leaves their head, trunk and extremities in positions where they can suffer injuries to these areas.

Perhaps the most common type of injury sustained by motorcycle riders is the lower extremity injury. Injuries to the leg are rarely fatal but can commonly require medical care and can lead to permanent disability to the rider.

One study looked at injuries sustained by 700 motorcyclists involved in crashes in LA County over a 1.5 year period of time. A total of 163 of these riders were fatalities and were discovered through the coroner’s office. The rest were found through the level I trauma centers in the area. A few were found at level II trauma centers in LA County.

Of all injuries, lower extremity injuries were found in more than half (56 percent) of the nonfatally injured patients and in about 46 percent of those riders who died as a result of their injuries. The most common type of injury was a fracture, which was diagnosed in 53 percent and 42 percent of all riders in nonfatal and fatal injuries, respectively.

The most common type of fracture was the tibia and fibula fracture, which involves a fracture of the lower leg, somewhere between the knee and the ankle. This was true whether or not the rider was the driver or the passenger of the vehicle. Tibia and fibula fractures made up a total of a third of all fractures.

There were more fractured legs if more than one vehicle was involved in the accident with the highest lower extremity fractures found in cases where the accident involved a motorcycle being broadsided by another vehicle, particularly at high speeds. The risk ration of such an event was about 2.7 to 1.

The study ended by saying that there is the possibility of motorcycle design changes that can reduce the incidence of these types of fractures in motorcycle accidents.

The other possibility in lower extremity fractures is the femur fracture. This involves a break in the femur, which lies between the hip and the knee. Such fractures can be extremely proximal and can involve the hip joint itself. Such hip fractures need to be repaired using surgical means. An artificial “ball” of the joint is created and sometimes the socket of the joint needs to be replaced for proper alignment of the joint itself. Mid femur fractures may need to be repaired by putting a rod that spans the fracture along with a plate and screws in order to keep the bony ends from overlapping permanently, leading to unstable ambulation.

Foot fractures can happen especially in cases where boots aren’t worn. The foot can be crushed beneath the motorcycle as it slides along the surface of the pavement. In such cases, multiple bones, including the bones that make up the ankle itself can be fractured. Most of these fractures can be treated conservatively without any surgery required.