When you are knocked to the ground off your motorcycle by a speeding or reckless driver, you are vulnerable to a variety of very serious injuries. Even if you are wearing a helmet and Kevlar clothing, you can suffer a head injury, broken bones, internal organ damage, or a spinal cord injury that leaves you paralyzed. One common injury sustained by motorcyclists in crashes is a broken rib—or, more likely, multiple broken ribs. This is an injury that can cause additional damage to the body in the moments and days after the accident. We tell you everything you need to know about rib injuries here.
Symptoms of Broken Ribs
After a motorcycle crash, you should be fully assessed by a doctor to determine the extent of your injuries. Because broken ribs may be more difficult to diagnose at first glance, it is important that a doctor orders an X-ray to see if your ribs are fractured, particularly if you suffered an impact to your chest or back. Some symptoms you might experience include:
- Bruising on the chest or back
- Difficulty or pain when inhaling deeply
- Shortness of breath
- Upper-body pain that gets worse with movement or coughing
- Swelling in the chest area
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
Because the rib cage protects the body’s most sensitive and vital organs, the danger of a broken rib is that the fractured bone or a bone fragment could puncture one of these organs and cause serious damage or be fatal.
Risks of a broken rib include:
- Punctured lung. The sharp end of a broken rib bone could poke a hole in lung tissue and allow air to escape from the lung into the space between it and the chest wall. If enough air escapes, the lung could collapse. Known as pneumothorax, a collapsed lung makes it difficult, if not impossible, to breathe. Lightheadedness and a bluish tint to the lips or skin could indicate that a lung has been punctured.
- Lacerated organ. A broken rib could puncture or scrape the spleen, liver, or kidneys. If the organ damage is not detected and treated promptly, the injury could prove fatal.
- Torn or punctured aorta. The aorta is the main artery that carries blood away from your heart to the rest of your body. An aortic dissection caused by a broken rib is a life-threatening injury that requires immediate emergency medical care.
In a best-case scenario, a broken rib has not damaged any organs, but it can still be very painful and take time to heal.
How Do You Put a Cast on a Broken Rib?
You don’t! When you break an arm or a leg, the doctor sets the bone and puts a cast on to allow the bone to knit back together. However, there is no way to do this for a broken rib. Most cracked ribs just take time to heal. Ribs can take longer to heal than other broken bones because there is no way to keep the broken bones completely immobile. In most cases, the fracture will heal in about 12 weeks. Doctors will prescribe a schedule of pain relievers, muscle relaxants, and pulmonary hygiene, which includes deep breathing exercises and purposeful coughing to help with lung expansion.
In cases where the rib has damaged an organ, surgery will likely be necessary to repair the organ and put the rib back in place. A titanium plate might be placed across the fracture and secured with titanium screws. This stabilizes the bone and allows it to heal.
Recovery Costs & Medical Bills After Your Motorcycle Accident
If you were seriously injured in a motorcycle crash that was not your fault, you should not have to worry about what your recovery will cost. The negligent driver should be held responsible for your medical bills, rehabilitation, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Broken ribs can prevent you from being able to work for several months, and you should not have to eat those costs when another person’s actions caused your crash.