Foot And Ankle Injuries FAQs


The Law Of... treating post-traumatic arthritis

Painful fractures to the foot or ankle can be all too easy to sustain and often the resulting discomfort and inconvenience is not the end of the story. Ongoing problems can develop once the initial break has healed, which include post-traumatic arthritis, a condition that can cause life-changing and extremely debilitating pain.

Foot and Ankle Injury Compensation

Anna Thompson, a Personal Injury Associate with Simpson Millar, answers your frequently asked questions regarding post-traumatic arthritis resulting from a foot or ankle injury.

What is post-traumatic arthritis?

Post-traumatic arthritis is an inflammation of the joints that develops following an injury to the foot or ankle.

This is due to the cartilage, which acts as a spongy, protective layer between the joints, wearing away, leading to the bones rubbing uncushioned against one another.

What causes post-traumatic arthritis?

A common cause of the condition is a fracture or dislocation, although other injuries that damage or cause wear and tear to the cartilage can be responsible.

What are the symptoms of post-traumatic arthritis?

Painful, swollen, and distorted joints are the key symptoms associated with post-traumatic arthritis. This can make it difficult to walk and greatly reduce mobility in the sufferer. Redness and even warmness to the touch can also manifest in the affected joints, with both the pain and swelling often intensifying after periods of sitting or rest, or being particularly acute first thing in the morning.

The symptoms of post-traumatic arthritis are not always evident following a foot or ankle injury, as it can take years for the disease to develop.

How can you treat post-traumatic arthritis?

Unfortunately, there is no actual cure for arthritis itself, but this doesn't mean that the condition can't be treated to relieve the pain and discomfort, allowing the sufferer to once again enjoy a certain quality of life.

The treatments for post-traumatic arthritis generally start out as non-surgical, but if they cease to be effective, or fail to reduce the discomfort, surgical procedures may be required.

Treatments include:
Non-surgical treatments
  • Encouraging weight loss to ease the amount of pressure placed upon the ankle joint, or the foot where the arthritis develops
  • Low impact exercise or activities to help strengthen muscles surrounding the affected joint and minimising other activities that could aggravate the problem further
  • Physiotherapy to improve joint mobility, although in some cases there is the potential for it to exacerbate the problem. If physiotherapy makes the pain or swelling worse it will be stopped
  • Medical solutions such as localised steroid injections or tablets to temporarily reduce the inflammation and relieve the pain
  • Assistive devices such as state of the art orthotics which provide support to the arthritic joints via products such as carbon fibre, silicon and elasticated foot braces, inserts and specially adapted footwear
Surgical treatments
  • Ankle fusion – The ankle joint affected with post-traumatic arthritis is removed and the remaining bones are fused together with screws, resulting in a foot fixed at 45°to the leg
    New bone grows where the fusion has occurred, leaving a single bone where, pre-operation, there had been two. Although the ankle will now be stiff, the removal of the joint ensures that the bones can no longer rub together, eliminating the previous pain
  • Ankle replacement – Similar to a hip replacement, with the cartilage-worn ends of the ankle joint's affected bones removed and replaced with artificial components engineered from steel or plastic
    Unlike a fusion, this allows movement of the ankle to continue once recovery has taken place
  • Metatarsal surgery – Where the arthritis is in the foot, the affected metatarsophalangeal joints (MTPJs), which connect the metatarsal bones to the rear of the toes, will have a percentage of the top portion of their heads removed to reduce the discomfort and improve mobility

Why should I claim for injuries that result in post-traumatic arthritis?

If your post-traumatic arthritis is a result of an accident that wasn't your fault, you may be entitled to make a personal injury claim.

Treating a life-changing illness can be expensive, with the specialist equipment required to help ease discomfort and improve your quality of life – in this case, items such as foot inserts, braces etc. – providing an additional financial burden. Combined with a loss of earnings, travelling expenses to and from medical appointments and any care or home assistance that might be required, the costs can quickly become prohibitive.

Although some treatments will be available on the NHS, there is no guarantee that the one specific to your requirements will be, and then there is the prospect of waiting lists to contend with. If your need is particularly urgent, you may consider private treatment for some of the procedures mentioned, which will considerably increase the financial cost to you.

A successful personal injury claim will ease the anxiety of having to find the money to pay for all of this, with your compensation factoring in the expenses that have arisen – or will arise – as a result of the initial foot or ankle injury.

A claim will also highlight the issue that caused the original accident, contributing to the effort in preventing it happening to other people.

Who is responsible for my condition?

Responsibility depends upon where the accident took place.

If you sustained a fracture or other injury to your foot or ankle due to a path or road surface that has fallen into disrepair, responsibility would probably lie with the local authority. If the injury happened while on private premises, the owner would be at fault. In the event the accident occurred while at work, then your employer would be responsible.

Local authorities have a duty of care to ensure that pavements and road surfaces are maintained and kept in good condition to ensure they remain hazard-free for all their users, whereas employers are bound by Health and Safety regulation to minimise the risk of accidents within the workplace. The owners of private establishments have a duty to ensure a visitor will be safe in using the premises for the purposes he/she is permitted to be there.

How do I make a claim?

To make a personal injury claim for a foot/ankle injury or the resulting post-traumatic arthritis, you should first seek advice from a solicitor with a track record in handling such cases. They will offer you expert guidance and let you know whether you have grounds for such a claim.

How long do I have to make a claim?

In the UK, there is a 3 year limitation on making a personal injury claim. This comes into effect either from when the accident took place, or from when the resulting injury/condition was discovered.

With foot and ankle injury claims, it is important your solicitor has the right medical expert on hand to assess the damage – in this case a surgeon specialising in these types of injuries.

The reason for this is the symptoms of post-traumatic arthritis can take years to manifest, so, to ensure the right amount of compensation is paid, the chances of it developing would need to be ascertained prior to the claim being settled.

What do I do next?

If you have suffered a foot or ankle injury, or have developed post-traumatic arthritis as the result of one, and you believe it was caused by an accident for which you are not to blame, you should seek legal advice from an independent personal injury expert.

Simpson Millar has an experienced Personal Injury claims team, ready to take on your case and ensure you get the compensation you are entitled to.

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