The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that motor vehicle crashes injured nearly 2.3 million people in 2020.
Broken ribs are common in automotive accidents. While they usually heal on their own, it is important to seek medical attention, as rib fractures can have serious complications.
What causes broken ribs?
In a motor vehicle accident, broken ribs can result from impact with the steering wheel, dashboard, airbag or seat belt. Pedestrians and bicyclists often sustain broken ribs during collisions with cars. Some conditions, such as bone cancer and osteoporosis, can increase your risk of a rib fracture.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptom of broken ribs is pain that gets worse when you move, cough or breathe. Other symptoms may include bruising or a feeling of tightness in your chest.
If you have these symptoms, your doctor should order diagnostic imaging. Rib fractures may not show up on an x-ray, so you might need a CT scan or MRI instead.
What is the treatment?
Treatment generally consists of rest and pain management. In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary. Bandaging broken ribs is generally unsafe, as it can restrict your breathing.
Are broken ribs dangerous?
While cracked ribs normally heal without complications, a severe fracture can be dangerous.
Punctures and lacerations
A fractured upper or middle rib can puncture your aorta or lungs, while lower rib fractures may, in rare cases, injure your liver or kidneys.
Broken ribs are usually very painful, making it difficult to breathe deeply. This can lead to pneumonia. Your doctor may recommend breathing exercises to help prevent pneumonia.
After a car crash, the severity of your injuries may not immediately be obvious. You must seek medical attention quickly in order to document your injuries and receive prompt treatment.