The sternum is also known as the breastbone. It is a very strong bone that sits in the front of the chest, and the collar bones and uppermost ribs are all attached to it. There are different types of sternum injuries that could be experienced, including a bruised sternum and a fractured sternum. Fracturing the sternum is very difficult to do, but it can occur if the force of the impact suffered is serious enough to cause the bone to break. Indeed, only a fraction of the people who suffer a significant impact injury to the chest will break the bone.
How might you incur sternum injuries?
We know a significant impact to the sternum can cause an injury to that part of the body. This can happen in several ways:
- A fall from height
- A road accident
- High-impact sporting accident
A fall from height means you are likely to suffer a significant impact to the body as you land. Furthermore, you could land awkwardly or land on something else that causes a nasty impact to your chest. The acceleration involved in a fall means the further the fall, the greater the speed. This can also lead to a nasty injury. If something were to fall on you, perhaps if scaffolding collapsed, for example, this too could cause sternum injuries.
Road accidents are also likely to lead to sternum injuries, even at relatively low speeds. Most of us are diligent and wear our seat belts when we are in a car. These are designed to lock whenever the vehicle comes to a sudden stop. In doing so, they prevent us from being ejected from the vehicle. However, the process of the seat belt locking against a body that is still in motion can also cause sternum injuries to occur.
If you are travelling at a lower speed, you may suffer from bruising to the sternum, both externally and internally. If you are travelling at a higher speed, the impact could be enough to lead to a sternal fracture. Incidentally, the combined speeds of the two vehicles involved will determine the total impact speed, which could be significantly more even if your vehicle was well under the speed limit at the time.
A bruised sternum
We are all familiar with bruises. They occur after an impact strong enough to break blood vessels underneath the skin. Since the breastbone is an incredibly tough bone, and one that is very hard to break, you may instead experience a bruised sternum.
This may sound a lot less painful, but in fact, it can still cause discomfort. You’ll feel pain and tenderness in your chest following the impact, and this may continue for a few weeks. While it is a painful injury, it is not typically as painful as it would be if you had fractured the bone. Therefore, if you have severe pain following a car accident or impact to the chest, make sure you see a doctor. They will want to check you over and may recommend you get an x-ray to rule out a fracture.
A fractured sternum
We have already seen how rare this injury is, but some people are unfortunate enough to suffer an injury severe enough to break the sternum. Unfortunately, the nature of the injury means that it cannot be put in plaster, as would be the case with other broken bones. Instead, you will need to rest as much as you can, manage your pain with painkillers as recommended by your doctor or healthcare professional, and recover in the space of a month or two.
NHS guidance states that bruising caused by sternum injuries usually disappears in a week or two. However, you may still feel discomfort some weeks after the fracture has healed, so it may be a while before you feel back to your normal self.
How to deal with sternum injuries
Once you are aware of the extent of your injury, you should try and rest whenever you can. Refrain from taking part in any sports for a while, and don’t try and lift anything if you can help it. If you have attended hospital and have a confirmed fracture to the breastbone, you may have been given some advice in an NHS leaflet. This will tell you what you should and should not do to heal properly without any complications. Treatment for these injuries ranges from hot and cold treatments to help reduce pain and swelling, to taking painkillers in the early stages of recovery.
Finding out whether you have an opportunity to claim compensation
When you have an injury this painful, you’ll likely take a while to come to terms with what happened, and to adjust to your recovery process. While you are resting, you may run through what happened in your mind. This may make you wonder if a third party was the reason why your accident happened to begin with.
For instance, did someone else make the wrong move on the road and drive into your vehicle? Did you fall from a height at work because you were not properly protected? Whatever happened, you may have some questions, and if you get the right answers, you could find out whether a no-win, no-fee* claim could be a possibility in your case.
Start a claim today
Accident Advice Helpline has been working on behalf of thousands of clients in all kinds of situations for over 16 years. Whenever we can represent someone on a no-win, no-fee* basis following an accident that caused them injury, we will do so if they wish to go ahead. Find out today if you could claim for your sternum injuries by calling us on 0800 689 0500, or on 0333 500 0993 from your mobile. It’s easy to see whether a personal injury lawyer from our team could help you fight for compensation for whatever injuries you suffered, if someone else was to blame. Isn’t it time you found out whether you could make a claim?
Date Published: August 9, 2015
Author: Rob Steen