Lower Extremity Injuries from Bicycle Accidents
Your lower extremities are especially exposed in a bicycle accident. Losing control of your bicycle or being propelled through the air to the roadway or into a motor vehicle or other object can seriously damage your lower extremities.
Your lower extremities consist of your pelvis, hip, patella, tibia, fibula, ankle, and feet. An injury can mean a strain in any of these areas, ligament tears, abrasions or burns as well as fractures. A fracture can also lead to distal disruption (situated away from the injury site) of the nerves or blood vessels causing numbness or tingling to that part of the body distal to the fracture.
Symptoms of a lower extremity injury include:
- Pain at the injury site
- Inability to walk on the injured leg
- Deformity in the affected leg
- Distal coldness, numbness, tingling or paralysis of the extremity
If a fracture is suspected, it can easily be seen on X-rays, but if it is a non-displaced fracture, for example, then an MRI will reveal it. Hematomas and tissue damage can be found on MRIs as well.
Nerve damage can be diagnosed using an electromyogram to check nerve function to muscles distal to the injury. Nerve stimulation tests determine if a fracture has impinged on a nerve. An ultrasound can detect whether arterial blood flow has been injured. If so, then surgery is needed to restore circulation to the affected extremity.
Treatment of fractures is usually done with splints or casts. A surgeon may have to do an open reduction and internal fixation to align the bone fragments and will use certain hardware such as rods, plates, and wires to fix the bone.
Not all lower extremity injuries heal as expected. Complications can be long lasting and may include:
- Failure to restore complete function of the extremity
- Lack of nerve function distal to the injured area
- Poor circulation in the affected area
- Amputation if a severe crush injury or failure to heal
Knee injuries from bicycle accidents can include ligament tears of the ACL or MCL. These can occur from being hit directly on the knee or from twisting your knee with your foot planted, which can happen when your foot is stuck in the pedal and twists in an accident or is extended too far. You may notice immediate pain, a loud pop, swelling and an inability to put any weight on your leg. Mild to moderate injuries may heal on their own though an ACL may not without surgical reconstruction.