Some insurers treat soft tissue injuries as though accident victims are simply making them up. But soft tissue injuries can cause pain and may require substantial recovery time. Even a minor sprain could take weeks to heal.
The real danger of a soft tissue injury is a permanent disability. Some soft tissue injuries, like a torn ligament, might require surgery. Even after surgery, you might never regain the functionality you had before your injury.
Soft tissue injuries are serious. Learn more about their effects and the compensation you can seek when you suffer one in a preventable accident.
What Are the Soft Tissues of the Musculoskeletal System?
The musculoskeletal system has two types of tissues. Bones provide the structure for your body. Your bone cells build a matrix of minerals to produce rigid scaffolding where your soft tissues can attach.
Your soft tissues cooperate with your skeleton to provide strength and movement to your body. Soft tissues include:
Ligaments are tough, flexible bands of tissue that hold bones together at the joints. Ligaments have the strength to give the skeleton structure and the elasticity to allow the joints to bend.
Muscles and Tendons
Muscles give your body strength and motion. They attach to the skeleton through tendons. Your muscles use the leverage provided by the bones to support and move your body.
Cartilage lines your joints. It cushions the joints from shocks when you walk, run, or even bend over. It also provides a smooth, durable surface on which the bones move. Without cartilage, your bones would grind and wear when you shifted positions.
What Can Cause a Soft Tissue Injury?
Soft tissue injuries often happen due to trauma, including:
You may suffer penetrating trauma when an object hits your body and creates an open wound. Penetrating trauma causes bleeding and opens up a risk of infection.
Pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents commonly cause penetrating trauma, such as abrasions and lacerations. Since pedestrians and bicyclists have little protection against traffic crashes, even a minor accident can cause serious soft tissue injuries.
Blunt trauma happens when something hits your body without creating an open wound. Blunt trauma can cause soft tissue injuries and broken bones.
Falls, including elevated falls and slip and fall accidents, can cause blunt trauma. You can suffer bruises, strains, and sprains from an impact with a blunt object.
Hyperextension occurs when your soft tissue gets stretched beyond its normal range. Hyperextension can happen in almost any type of accident.
Car accidents are a common source of hyperextension trauma. In a car accident, your body could twist and bend under the force of the collision. The twisting and bending will hyperextend the soft tissues of your body.
What Types of Soft Tissue Injuries Can Occur?
Soft tissue injuries can take many different forms, depending on the tissue that gets injured. Some examples of soft tissue injuries include:
A blunt injury can cause a bruise. Bruises happen when blood vessels burst below the skin. The bleeding causes soreness, swelling, and discoloration. In most cases, bruises will clear up within a few weeks with home care.
Lacerations result from penetrating trauma. Severe lacerations can slice through muscles, tendons, or even ligaments. In some cases, doctors can simply close the wound, and the soft tissues will heal on their own.
However, doctors may perform surgery when the nerves controlling the muscles get lacerated. In nerve graft surgery, doctors use a section of a nerve from a cadaver or elsewhere in your body to replace a damaged nerve segment.
Strains and Sprains
A strain happens when you suffer a hyperextension injury of your muscles or tendons.
Symptoms of a strain include:
- Muscle pain
- Swelling and stiffness near the injury
- Muscle spasms
Strains usually heal in four to six weeks with home care. Doctors rarely operate on a strained muscle or tendon unless it involves a full-thickness tear in a major muscle group.
For example, a doctor may surgically repair a torn muscle or tendon in the rotator cuff to restore as much function to your shoulder as possible. This differs from a sprain, in which you hyperextend a ligament.
A sprain can cause:
- Joint pain
- Swelling in the injured joint
- Limited range of motion
- Popping in the joint during the injury
Most sprains also heal with home care. But when a sprain involves a full-thickness tear of a ligament, doctors will often recommend surgical repair of the ligament.
Since ligaments hold bones together at joints, you might have impaired movement while you heal from a torn ligament. A torn ligament in your knee or ankle might limit your ability to stand or walk, while a similar injury in your shoulder may prevent you from being able to lift your arm.
When you tear cartilage, you impair the function of the joint.
Some symptoms of torn cartilage include:
- Hitch in the joint motion
- Clicking as you move the joint
Cartilage can heal, but it heals very slowly. In the meantime, you will likely need to limit your activities. If the joint has loose cartilage floating in it after your injury, doctors may recommend surgery to remove it.
How Can You Get Compensation for a Soft Tissue Injury?
After a soft tissue injury, you can get compensation by proving that someone else’s negligence caused your accident. If your injuries resulted from a slip and fall, you can seek compensation if the property owner or occupant failed to reasonably protect your safety.
Florida uses a no-fault auto insurance system for car accident injuries. After a car accident, you can seek compensation from your PIP policy regardless of who may have been at fault. But if you can prove negligence and that your soft tissue injury is significant and permanent, you can often seek greater compensation with a claim against the at-fault driver.
If you prove negligence, you can get compensated for your economic and non-economic losses. Economic damages include the financial costs of your injury, such as your medical expenses and lost income. Non-economic damages include the effect of your injuries on your mental and physical well-being, such as pain, suffering, and disability.
A soft tissue injury can cause extreme pain and require months or even years to heal. While you recover, you might need to change your job or even stop working altogether.