Cause of MSK Traumatic Injuries


Lead Author(s): 

Jaimo Ahn, MD, PhD, FACS
Arvind D Nana, MD
Gudrun Mirick, MD
Anna N Miller, MD, FACS

Supporting Author(s): 

Sylvia I Watkins-Castillo, PhD

Records of patient visits for treatment of injuries often include a general cause of injury. In 2013, 28.3 million injury healthcare visits to hospitals and emergency departments were recorded, of which 73% (20.5 million) were musculoskeletal injuries. More than one-half ( 52%) of musculoskeletal hospital injuries were due to falls, with approximately one-fourth each due to trauma events (auto, train, boat, plane, motorcycle) or machinery, moving objects, other types of traumatic injury and other/undefined causes. Only a small proportion (3%) were due to sports injuries. Due to some admissions with multiple causes listed, percentages total more than 100%. Among emergency department visits, more than one-half of musculoskeletal injury visits were due to trauma events (51%), followed by falls as the cause of injury (36%), other/undefined cause (14%) and sports injuries (8%). (Reference Table 5B.1.1 PDF CSV)

By sex, women are more likely to suffer a musculoskeletal injury for which healthcare is sought due to a fall, while men are more likely suffer an injury from a traumatic event or a sports injury. Age is a clear factor related to musculoskeletal injuries where hospitalization occurs, with 71% of hospitalization discharges due to an injury from a fall among those age 65 and over. Injuries from falls treated at emergency departments are spread among all age groups. Persons age 18 to 44 years represent the largest share of trauma injuries treated in both the hospital (36%) and emergency department (47%). (Reference Table 5B.1.2 PDF CSV and Table 5B.1.3 PDF CSV)

The most frequent type of injury treated as a result of a fall is a fracture, accounting for 80% of hospitalizations and 33% of emergency department visits. Fractures are also the most frequent traumatic injury seen in hospital cases (63%), but open wounds (28%) and sprains/strains (25%) are treated more frequently in the emergency department as a result of a traumatic injury. Sports injuries are tracked in the ED setting, but not the hospital. Sprains and strains accounted for 35% of sports injuries treated in the emergency department in 2013. (Reference Table 5B.1.4 PDF CSV)

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also provides data on the cause of injuries in their Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Again, falls are the leading cause of unintentional nonfatal injuries (32%), with a rate of 29.2 injuries per 1,000 persons in 2015. The rate rises to 63.6/1,000 among those age 65 and over. Other common causes of unintentional injuries are struck by/against (14%) and overexertion (11%).  (Reference Table 5B.1.5 PDF CSV and Table 5B.1.6 PDF CSV)


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