Prevalence and patterns of foot injuries following motorcycle trauma

J Orthop Trauma. 2004 Feb;18(2):87-91. doi: 10.1097/00005131-200402000-00005.


Objectives: To determine the prevalence and patterns of foot injuries following motorcycle trauma.

Design: Prospective.

Setting: Yorkshire Region Trauma Units (Level 1 trauma centers with trauma research).

Patients: Individuals injured in motorcycle road traffic accidents between January 1993 and December 1999.

Outcome measurements: Patient demographics, protective devices (helmet) use, Injury Severity Score (ISS), Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS), clinical details, therapeutic interventions, resuscitation requirements, duration of hospital stay, mortality, and type of foot injuries sustained.

Results: The parent population of 1239 contained 53 (4.3%) foot-injured motorcyclists (49 men) with a mean age of 31.7 years (range 18-79 years). Fifty-two were drivers and one was a rear-seat passenger. Mean ISS was 6.9 (range 4-33), significantly lower than the parent population mean of 34.98 (range 9-75) (P = 0.001). Mean GCS was 14.7 (range 13-15). The motorcyclists' injuries included 26 metatarsal fractures (49.1%), 14 talar fractures (26.4%), 7 os calcis fractures (13.2%), and 6 toe fractures (11.3%). Associated foot injuries included three partial foot amputations, four Lisfranc dislocations, three cases of foot compartment syndrome (two crush injuries with no fracture, one open fourth metatarsal fracture with associated Lisfranc dislocation). Forty-six motorcyclists had more than one foot injury. Associated injuries included 22 ankle fractures (41.5%), 15 tibial fractures (28.3%), 6 femoral fractures (11.3%), 5 pelvic ring fractures (9.4%), 23 upper limb injuries (43.4%), and 3 cases of chest trauma (5.7%). No one sustained abdominal trauma or head injury compared with the parent population. All patients required operative stabilization of foot fractures, including their associated injuries. Mean hospital stay was 10.9 days (range 1-35 days). In the parent population, there were 71 deaths (6.0%), whereas there was only 1 death (1.9%) in the foot-injured group (with fractures including open book pelvic, T6-8, unilateral open femur, tibial, ankle, and metatarsal) with an ISS 33, who died of multiorgan dysfunction syndrome. At final follow-up, all patients underwent radiologic and clinical assessment of foot injuries. Forty-three patients returned to their previous occupation and level of mobility. Ten of the more significantly injured patients had to modify their occupation from manual to sedentary-type jobs due to their foot injuries. We noted a pattern of complex ipsilateral foot and limb injury in nine patients, which we postulate was due to the actual mechanism of contact with the road surface.

Conclusion: Motorcycle accidents continue to be a source of severe injury, especially to the foot. The most common foot injury is a metatarsal fracture; however, there must be a high index of suspicion for associated injuries. Although these injuries are associated with a low mortality rate, they require prompt assessment and treatment to limit long-term morbidity and disability. The difference in foot injury pattern and mortality between the parent population and our series, among other factors, potentially may be influenced by the actual mechanism of contact with the road surface and the modifying action of the foot during the accident.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ankle Injuries / epidemiology
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Femoral Fractures / epidemiology
  • Foot Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Fractures, Closed / epidemiology
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motorcycles / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pelvic Bones / injuries
  • Prevalence