Not every type of injury is visible like a broken bone or life-threatening like brain trauma. Some types of injuries involve damage to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the body, causing substantial pain to a victim. These are known as soft tissue injuries, and they can form the basis of a personal injury claim if they resulted from an accident. Soft tissue injuries also may result from repetitive motions on the job that overuse a body part, and injured employees may be able to seek workers’ compensation benefits in these cases.
Common Types of Soft Tissue Injuries
Some of the most common soft tissue injuries include sprains and strains. While sprains involve ligaments around joints, such as the knees and wrists, strains affect muscles and tendons, often in the back or leg and foot. Sprains are classified in three different grades, depending on the extent of the damage to the ligament and the surrounding area. More serious sprains may affect the victim’s ability to use the joint and cause significant pain. Rest and rehabilitation may be sufficient to resolve some sprains, but the most severe sprains usually require surgery. Strains have a similar range in severity.
Tendinitis is a type of soft tissue injury that may arise from repetitive stress on the same body part. It involves inflammation of tendons near joints such as the shoulder or the wrist. Stress on a joint can cause the bones to scrape against the tendons. Some common conditions related to tendinitis include bursitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Other soft tissue injuries include damage to muscle fibers and tissue caused by a blow or a fall on a hard surface. This can cause internal bleeding around the injury site, known as a contusion, as well as swelling that may be painful and affect the functionality of the area.
Classifying Soft Tissue Injuries
A soft tissue injury usually can be classified as either an acute injury or an overuse injury. An acute injury occurs from a single traumatic event, which could be a car accident, a slip and fall, or a blow during a sports event. An overuse injury involves someone repeatedly engaging in a certain activity with a certain part of the body, preventing the muscles and tissue in the area from resting and recovering. Of the injuries discussed above, only tendinitis is an overuse injury, while the others are acute injuries.
Treating Soft Tissue Injuries
Techniques such as compression, elevation, massage, and icing may relieve the pain from soft tissue injuries and allow the area to recover. If the pain persists for more than 24 hours, a victim should consult a doctor to investigate the nature and cause of the injury and prescribe a course of treatment. The doctor may use imaging such as an MRI to examine the area.
Challenges in Soft Tissue Injury Cases
Some insurers tend to downplay the significance of soft tissue injuries to reduce an accident victim’s compensation. Not everyone recognizes that these injuries can interfere with a person’s ability to perform their job duties and engage in their normal activities. Doctors and vocational rehabilitation experts may need to explain the impact of the injuries on the victim’s physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing.
Defendants and their insurers may also suggest that an injury resulted from pre-existing conditions or the wear and tear on the victim’s body through the aging process. Causation can be challenging to establish in these cases and may involve introducing expert testimony. However, even if a victim’s body was weakened from a pre-existing condition, a defendant still can be held liable for causing a car accident, a slip and fall, or another traumatic event that triggered the injury. In the workers’ compensation context, an employer is required to pay for an exacerbation of a pre-existing condition caused by repetitive movements on the job.