A calcaneus fracture (heel bone fracture) can be a serious injury that may result in disability. Many times it's accompanied by other injuries such as fractures to the hip or spine. When it's a work injury, it could allow for recovery of workers' compensation benefits.
Causes and Symptoms of a Calcaneus Fracture
This type of fracture has two common causes, both involving a high-impact collision. One common cause is a car accident, like a delivery person injured in a head-on crash. Another common cause is when someone falls from an elevated surface. An example is a construction worker who loses balance on an elevated platform, falls and lands on his/her feet.
Symptoms of a calcaneal fracture include:
- deformed heel;
- unable to put weight on heel; and
- unable to walk.
Severity of a Calcaneus Fracture Impacts Treatment and Recovery
Depending on the extent of force placed on the heel, it could cause a minor, moderate or severe fracture. The least serious is a stable fracture, which oftentimes heals by immobilizing it with a brace. With this kind of fracture, the ends of the fractured bones align correctly and remain in place while healing.
A more serious type is a displaced fracture, where the broken ends of the bones don't line up. It may require surgery to put them back together, which may involve using screws and metal plates to hold the bones in place during the healing process.
An open (or compound) fracture is another serious type where the bone actually penetrates the skin. This open wound increases the risk of infection. It oftentimes means injuries to not only the bones but internal soft tissue such as ligaments, muscles and/or tendons. This usually requires immediate surgery and may take longer to heal. With a closed fracture, the bone doesn't pierce through the skin. But there may still be damage to internal soft tissue. Surgical treatment may still be necessary.
The most unstable type is a comminuted fracture. It's a result of bone(s) shattering into three or more pieces. Piecing the bones back together in surgery could be more complicated.
Whatever the type of fracture, the patient will have to stay off his/her foot for a period of time. This could be a few weeks or even longer, depending on the severity and treatment plan. And in some cases, there could be permanent loss of function.
With or without surgery, most people with a calcaneus fracture undergo rehab. Of course, it can take longer for those with more serious injuries to complete rehabilitation and fully recover. Special exercises focus on strengthening muscles and improving range of motion.
Recovery also depends on any complications that may occur, such as the wound taking longer to heal or there's tendon irritation because of the screws used in surgery. Some patients experience ongoing problems with joint stiffness and chronic pain even after the fracture has healed. A more permanent type of injury may be an altered gait.
Collecting Workers' Compensation Benefits for a Heel Bone Fracture
To qualify for worker's compensation benefits, the calcaneus fracture must have occurred during one's scope of employment. This may allow for collection of medical benefits, which pays for all injury-related costs. And if the employee is unable to work for a period of time, he or she may recover partial wages through disability benefits. Permanent disability benefits may be recoverable when the injury has permanent disabling effects.
Despite qualifying, there can sometimes be complications collecting benefits. If a claim was wrongly denied, seek legal advice at Walker, Billingsley & Bair in Des Moines. An attorney can explain your rights and options when applying for benefits or appealing a denied claim. Contact us at (888) 435-9886.