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Can Soft Tissue Damage Be Permanent?

Published on Mar 26, 2019 at 10:42 am in Auto Accident.

When thinking about the physical consequences related to accidents, fractures are probably one of the first injuries that come to mind. While broken bones can be serious, there are other injuries that can result in just as much pain and a long recovery process. One of those injuries is soft tissue damage.

While a number of injuries can result in soft tissue damage, car accident injuries are among the most common causes. The severity of the injury greatly depends on the severity of the crash, the force of impact, and the initial state of the victim’s health. While many soft tissue injuries are minor or will heal over time, many others come with long-lasting effects and may even be permanent. When soft tissue damage becomes catastrophic or permanent, a person will likely need to change how they live their day to day life.

Understanding Soft Tissue Injuries

In the event of a severe impact, a person’s muscles, ligaments, and tendons can be damaged because the stress of the collision can lead to stretching or tearing. Whiplash is one of the most common examples of a soft tissue injury, when the ligaments, muscles, and tendons in the neck are violently stretched.

A sprain occurs when a ligament is stretched to the point it needs to heal or there is a minor tear. A strain involves a stretched or torn muscle or tendon. If a muscle, ligament, or tendon is torn, it means there has been a partial or complete rupture of the soft tissue.

While some soft tissue injuries result in minor pain that goes away as the injury heals, other can result in severe pain and a series of treatments. Soft tissue injuries are categorized based on grade. These categories allow doctors to give patients a better idea of what they’re body has been through and what the recovery process will look like.

A Grade I injury results in little to no joint instability. These injuries typically heal on their own within a few weeks. A Grade II injury results in some joint instability. While many injuries can heal on their own, the most severe ones involving tears may require surgery. A Grade III, the worst soft tissue injury, results in a complete tear that will require surgery. An injury like this may feel like a bone fracture and is likely to result in the inability to use the affected limb or joint.

The Healing Phases of a Soft Tissue Injury 

If a soft tissue injury can heal on its own, it’s likely it will take a significant amount of time. During the initial injury, when the pain, bleeding, and swelling is at its worst, the injury is referred to as acute. At this point, your body will aim to protect your injury from further damage. If treated properly, initial symptoms are likely to settle within two to four days.

As the body transitions from protecting the injury to repairing it, this is called the sub-acute phase. This phase often lasts around six weeks, as the body will build new scar tissue to mature and strengthen the injury. After this, the remodeling phase can begin. Even if the injury is reasonably healed, stretching the scar tissue can cause additional stress. The body will continue to stimulate new tissue growth until the normal demands of mobility can be met. This often takes six weeks to three months.

If pain persists after three months, the condition may be chronic. A physiotherapist, an expert in diagnosing and treating soft tissue injuries, will be able to help you determine how best to proceed.

When Soft Tissue Injuries are Catastrophic

A soft tissue injury may be considered legally catastrophic if there’s the potential for long-term or permanent effects. While Grade I injuries would typically not fall into this category, Grade II or III could. Some potentially permanent consequences include chronic numbness, chronic pain, limited mobility, loss of function, and limited muscle strength.

There are initial signs your injury may be catastrophic, including:

  • You heard a “crack” or “pop” at the time of the accident
  • You are experiencing numbness or a “pins and needles” sensation at the injury site
  • You cannot move the affected joint or put any weight on the affected limb
  • Severe pain around the joint structure or bone is present
  • The injury site appears to be deformed

A permanent soft tissue injury could result in scarring or disfigurement and loss of bodily function. Victims may be unable to return to their jobs and may require medical intervention to complete day-to-day tasks.

No matter the injuries you’ve sustained, if you believe your accident was the result of another party’s negligent actions, our lawyers can examine your case and determine if you have grounds to take legal action. You may be eligible for compensation that can aid in your recovery. To determine how to proceed, contact our office today.