In most cases, the fracture of a bone is not a catastrophic injury. Bones usually require setting to return to anatomic alignment and immobilization to maintain it but usually heal completely.
However, there are two types of fractures that can turn into catastrophic injuries. Skull fractures and spinal fractures can cause damage to the central nervous system.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there are several different types of skull fractures. The most serious type is a basilar skull fracture, which is a break at the back of the skull. A basilar skull fracture can cause a leak of the cerebrospinal fluid that cushions and supports the brain and may require hospitalization for close observation. Another potentially serious type of skull fracture is a depressed fracture in which the broken fragments sink inward, potentially damaging the brain.
A spinal fracture is a break in one or more of the vertebrae, which make up the backbone. Spinal fractures can be major or minor. Major fractures involve breaking of the vertebral bodies, which increases the risk for damage to the nerves or spinal cord. Minor spinal fractures only involve the posterior elements of the vertebrae, which are less likely to affect the stability of the spine or cause nerve damage.
According to Spine Universe, a burst fracture occurs due to severe trauma to one of the vertebrae. This is a major spinal fracture because it affects the entire vertebra, which fractures in multiple places. Multiple bone fragments have a greater chance of severing the spinal cord, which could result in paralysis.
Skull fractures and spinal fractures could result from industrial or workplace accidents such as slip-and-falls, motor vehicle accidents or crush injuries.