Common Orthopedic Injuries Caused by Falling

Elbow-injury-webEach year, one in three adults over the age of 65 experiences an unintentional fall, and 2.5 million older adults are treated in the emergency room for fall-related injuries. But elderly people are not the only ones at risk of falling, especially during winter months when weather conditions can be the most severe. When sidewalks and roadways are not cleared of snow and ice, you are more likely to fall, risking serious orthopedic injuries, including knee pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, wrist injuries and elbow injuries.

Knee Pain

If you experience knee pain after a fall, it may be an indication of an acute knee injury. Some of the most common acute knee injuries include fractures and dislocations.

Fractures involve a break or crack in one or more of the bones in the knee. If you experience pain, swelling or bruising with difficulty bending or moving the knee or bearing weight, you may have a ligament tear, such as a torn ACL, or fracture.

Other knee injuries from falling include sprains and strains, which occur as a result of twisting or stretching. These injuries take the knee through a greater range of motion than it can tolerate, adding pressure to the area and causing pain.

Hip Pain

The most serious fall injuries occur to the hip. While the hip joint can withstand years of wear and tear, it is not indestructible. Common hip injuries from falling include broken hip, hip dislocation, hip bursitis and labral tears.

Hip dislocation occurs when the femur head slips out of socket, causing severe pain and an inability to move the leg. Hip bursitis develops when the bursa, a fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between the hip bone and soft tissues, sustains an injury against a hard surface and becomes inflamed. Labral tears occur when there is damage to the cartilage that surrounds the bony edge of the socket in the pelvis. This can be due to repetitive use of the hip or an event such as a fall or accident that causes the joint to twist. Depending on your condition, you may feel discomfort in your thigh, groin or buttocks as well as the inside or outside of your hip joint.

Shoulder Pain

The shoulder is the body’s most mobile joint, which also makes it susceptible to falling injuries. Common shoulder injuries from falling include shoulder dislocation or shoulder separation, shoulder fracture, labral tears, rotator cuff tears and shoulder bursitis.

A dislocated shoulder is an injury in which the upper part of your arm bone pops out of the socket of your shoulder. A shoulder fracture is a break or crack in the shoulder bones that usually causes severe pain with redness or bruising. Similarly, a labral tear, rotator cuff tear, or the inflammation of bursitis is often caused by repetitive motion or trauma from a fall or blow to the shoulder. Symptoms include pain, swelling, loss of strength, decreased range of motion, and catching, locking or popping of the shoulder.

Wrist Injuries

The most common fall injuries occur in the wrist as a result of landing on an outstretched hand or arm. As you slip, you automatically stick your hand out to break your fall. Once your hand hits the ground, the impact bends the wrist back toward your forearm, causing the ligaments in your wrist and hand to stretch, resulting in tiny tears. The strength of your bones, wrist positioning and force involved in your fall determines the severity of your injury. Symptoms of a broken wrist or broken hand include severe pain, swelling, tenderness, bruising, stiffness or numbness.

Elbow Injuries

Similarly, elbow injuries such as a broken elbow, dislocation, fracture or elbow bursitis are caused by severe impact from falling. Elbow dislocation occurs when the forearm bone or ulna dislocates backward out of the joint, causing immediate pain and loss of range of motion. A broken or fractured elbow is another traumatic fall injury that often requires urgent medical attention. If the fractured bones move too far apart, surgery may be necessary to prevent restricted range of motion or stiffness in the elbow joint. The location of the elbow also makes it easily subject to the inflammation of bursitis that can develop after the impact of a fall.

A sprain, tear or rupture is a stretch injury that occurs when the elbow is bent or twisted in an unnatural position. You may notice pain, swelling, bruising, redness or warmth around your elbow.

If you suspect any of the above injuries, it is important that you seek care as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage or loss of function. Our orthopedic specialists offer a wide range of treatment options for fall-related injuries. To consult with our physicians about your orthopedic health, please make an appointment by calling 913-319-7600.


The medical information contained in the Dickson-Diveley Orthopaedics website is provided to increase your knowledge and understanding of orthopedic conditions. This information should not be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific medical or surgical treatment plan. As each patient may have specific symptoms or associated problems, the treatment regimen for a specific patient may not be the proper treatment for another.

Gaining knowledge and understanding of a particular problem or condition is the first step in any medical treatment plan. We believe the information presented on our website will be helpful for those individuals experiencing leg and knee pain, orthopedic injuries, or other related problems. However, this information is not intended to replace the advice of your family physician. You are encouraged to consult with your physician to discuss any course of treatment presented or suggested.