Background: Lower extremity injuries (LEIs) sustained in vehicular crashes result in physical problems and unexpected psychosocial consequences. Their significance is diminished by low Abbreviated Injury Scale scores.
Methods: Drivers who sustained LEIs were identified as part of the Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network (CIREN) and interviewed during hospitalization, at 6 months, and at 1 year. All were occupants of newer vehicles with seatbelts and airbags.
Results: Sixty-five patients were followed for 1 year. Injuries included mild brain injury (43%), ankle/foot fractures (55%), and bilateral injuries (37%). One year post-injury, 46% reported limitations in walking and 22% with ankle/foot fractures were unable to return to work. Depression (39%), cognitive problems (32%), and post-traumatic stress disorder (18%) were significant in the mild brain injury group.
Conclusions: Long-lasting physical and psychological burdens may impede recovery and alter the lifestyle of patients with LEI. These issues need to be addressed by trauma center personnel.