Approximately one-quarter of all motorcycle crash patients sustain injuries to their lower extremities. These injuries are among the most common injuries and represent a significant burden on the health care system. Survivors of limb amputations require more intensive medical care and have to spend more time in the hospital. In addition, victims often lose their mobility and have to learn how to use a prosthetic limb.
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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a report, Lower-Extremity Injuries in Motorcycle Crashes, in 2006. The report details the frequency and severity of lower extremity injuries among motorcyclists treated in level I and II trauma centers. In addition, it identifies trends in the morbidity and mortality of motorcycle crash victims.
The study includes patients who sustained injuries from motorcycle crashes between 2001 and 2017. Data on motorcycle crash victims were retrieved from paper-based medical files and electronic medical records. In addition, clinical diagnosis was performed to identify the mechanism of injury. These injuries were categorized as single-isolated lower-extremity, multiple lower-extremity, or lower-extremity and other injuries. The data included patients with valid hospital charges and were coded as self-pay, automobile insurance, or managed care organization.
Lower-extremity injuries are the most common injuries among motorcyclists who are treated in trauma centers. They are among the most severe of all injuries, with higher rates of injury than chest injuries and abdominal injuries. They are also more common than head injuries. Motorcyclists are eight times more likely to be injured than passengers in passenger cars. They are also at greater risk for amputations because of the lack of basic protection.
Lower-extremity injuries represent the most significant burden on the health care system, with 185,000 lower-limb amputations occurring annually. Amputations can occur for several reasons, including carelessness or medical disease. The psychological effects of losing a limb are also significant. Survivors of limb amputations require a prolonged period of rehabilitation and require more medical care than other crash victims.
The most common type of lower-extremity injury is bone fractures. Bone fractures, which occur mostly in the thigh, are more common than soft tissue injuries. Other types of injuries include pelvic injuries. Pelvic injuries account for 18 percent of lower-extremity injuries. Among motorcycle crash victims, pelvic injuries were the second most common injury type.
Motorcyclists are at greater risk for amputations because they are less protected in crashes than passengers in passenger cars. They are also less likely to have the basic protection provided by a helmet, shoulder pads, and gloves. In addition, amputations can occur during an accident when the rider is struck by another vehicle. In some cases, a rider’s limb may be pinned in a metal chain. This causes the limb to become infected, requiring amputation. The amputation may occur days or weeks after the accident. It is therefore important to get immediate medical attention after a crash.
During the study period, 25,000 motorcyclists were injured in motorcycle crashes. Almost three-quarters of these injuries were classified as incapacitating. The most common motorcycle crash victim was a male rider.