Learn about your right to workers’ comp benefits if you suffer a Lisfranc injury at work
Lisfranc injuries, named after the 19th-century French surgeon who discovered them, are serious foot injuries that can significantly impact a worker’s ability to perform daily tasks. Commonly occurring in the workplace, particularly in industries like construction and manufacturing that require lifting heavy objects and operating heavy machinery, these injuries can lead to long-term complications if not properly addressed.
In Georgia, workers who suffer a Lisfranc injury may be entitled to compensation under the state’s workers’ compensation laws. This article explores the nature of Lisfranc injuries, how they commonly occur in the workplace, and the legal options available to injured workers in Georgia.
What is a Lisfranc injury, and what are the different types?
A Lisfranc injury refers to an injury that occurs at the midfoot, specifically involving the Lisfranc joint complex. This complex is a critical region that connects the metatarsal bones to the tarsal bones in the foot, and it plays a key role in providing stability and strength to the arch of the foot.
There are 3 main types of Lisfranc injuries:
- Sprains. This is the mildest form of a Lisfranc injury, involving stretching or minor tearing of the ligaments in the Lisfranc joint complex.
- Fractures. This refers to a break in 1 or more of the bones in the Lisfranc joint complex. A fracture can be classified further into nondisplaced (bones remain aligned) or displaced (bones are out of alignment).
- Dislocations. This is the most severe type of Lisfranc injury, involving complete displacement of the bones in the joint. This injury can damage both ligaments and bones, causing a serious misalignment that often requires surgical intervention.
How common are Lisfranc fractures?
This injury is fairly uncommon. According to the Cleveland Clinic, only about 0.2% of all fractures are Lisfranc fractures, but the condition is also frequently misdiagnosed.
In fact, it’s estimated that as many as 20% of Lisfranc injuries go undiagnosed because they often present with the same symptoms as other foot injuries.
What are the symptoms of a Lisfranc injury?
A Lisfranc injury can present with various symptoms that might range from mild to severe, depending on the nature and extent of the injury. Common symptoms include the following:
- Pain. The most immediate and prominent symptom is often pain in the midfoot area. This pain can be sharp and intense, especially when trying to stand or walk on the affected foot.
- Bruising. There may be noticeable bruising on both the top and bottom of the foot. This can be a distinguishing feature of a Lisfranc injury.
- Instability. A feeling of instability or weakness in the foot may occur, particularly when attempting to bear weight or move the foot in certain directions.
- Swelling. Swelling around the midfoot region is common, and it may be accompanied by redness or warmth to the touch.
- Deformity. In more severe cases, there may be a noticeable deformity in the midfoot region, such as a widening of the foot or misalignment of the toes.
- Numbness or tingling. Some individuals may experience numbness or tingling sensations in the foot, particularly if the injury affects nearby nerves.
- Difficulty in walking or bearing weight. Pain, swelling and instability can make walking or bearing weight on the affected foot extremely difficult or even impossible.
Given the complexity of the Lisfranc joint and the potential for long-term issues if not treated correctly, seeking immediate medical attention if any of these symptoms are present is crucial.
Common causes of Lisfranc fractures at work
Lisfranc injuries can occur through direct or indirect trauma. Direct trauma might involve a heavy object falling on the foot, while indirect trauma can occur from rotational forces or hyperextension, such as when a worker’s foot is planted and their body twists.
Lisfranc fractures at the workplace can occur due to various circumstances, often related to the nature of the job and the working environment. Some common causes include:
- Twisting or misstepping. Jobs that require frequent movement, pivoting or working on uneven surfaces may lead to accidental twisting or misstepping of the foot. This can happen to landscapers, roofers and flooring installers, among others.
- Falling objects. Workers in industries like construction, manufacturing or warehousing may be at risk if heavy objects fall onto their feet, causing direct trauma that can lead to Lisfranc fractures.
- Vehicle accidents. Workers who operate heavy machinery or vehicles, such as forklift operators or truck drivers, may suffer Lisfranc fractures in accidents where the foot is trapped or crushed.
- Slip-and-fall accidents. Slippery or cluttered work environments can lead to falls, causing indirect trauma where the body weight forces the foot into an unnatural position. This is common in workplace such as grocery stores, restaurants, and hospitals.
- Repetitive strain. Occupations that require repetitive motions with the legs and feet may contribute to a Lisfranc fracture.
- Use of improper footwear. Wearing inappropriate or ill-fitting shoes that lack support and protection may contribute to the risk of Lisfranc fractures, especially in physically demanding jobs.
Implementing proper safety measures, wearing appropriate protective footwear and maintaining a safe work environment can significantly reduce the risk of Lisfranc fractures and other foot-related injuries in the workplace.
How are Lisfranc injuries diagnosed and treated?
A physical examination is the first step in diagnosing a Lisfranc injury. Doctors may order X-rays to show whether there is a break in one or more of the Lisfranc bones. They may also order an MRI or CT scan to get more detailed images of the injured area and make a proper diagnosis.
Treatment depends on the severity of the fracture:
- Minor Lisfranc injuries. For minor injuries without significant displacement, treatment may include rest, ice, compression and elevation (known as the RICE protocol). Immobilization with a cast or boot may also be required for 6 to 12 weeks, followed by physical therapy to regain strength and mobility.
- Severe Lisfranc injuries. More severe injuries with fractures or dislocations may necessitate surgical intervention. This might involve internal fixation with screws or plates to realign and stabilize the bones. In some cases, a fusion of the joint may be required.
Can a Lisfranc injury heal on its own?
The symptoms of a Lisfranc injury are unlikely to resolve on their own and can get worse without appropriate medical intervention and rest. Because this injury is often misdiagnosed, it’s crucial to tell your doctor if you’re experiencing pain in your foot or ankle that doesn’t go away or increases in severity.
When can I return to work after Lisfranc surgery?
If your Lisfranc injury requires surgery, the amount of time you’ll need to take off work will depend on your job duties. Office workers and others who are able to sit while working may be able to return to work in 1 to 2 weeks, while workers who are required to be on their feet or perform manual labor may be unable to return to work for 2 to 3 months.
What are the long-term effects of a Lisfranc injury?
A Lisfranc injury can have long-term effects that could impact your ability to work or even participate in everyday tasks around your home. Without proper treatment and follow-up care, a Lisfranc injury can lead to chronic pain and arthritis, necessitating multiple surgeries in some cases.
Over time, the injury can also damage the tendons and nerves that support movement in the foot, so it’s essential to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent additional complications.
Can you ever fully recover from a Lisfranc injury?
Unfortunately, a complete Lisfranc injury recovery is not always possible. Even after undergoing a successful surgery for a Lisfranc injury, there may still be a risk of developing arthritis later in life. This injury also frequently results in persistent discomfort and pain around the midfoot despite treatment, which may necessitate the use of insoles or, in some cases, additional surgery.
Is a Lisfranc injury covered under workers’ comp in Georgia?
Yes. In Georgia, most employers with 3 or more employees are required to provide their workers with workers’ compensation insurance that provides the following benefits:
- Medical benefits that cover all necessary medical expenses related to the injury or illness, including doctor’s visits, hospital stays, surgeries, medication, rehabilitation and supplies
- Lost wage benefits that cover two-thirds of a worker’s average weekly wage if they’re unable to work during their recovery period
- Death benefits for certain family members if a worker dies from a work-related illness or injury
To qualify for these benefits, workers only need to prove that their injuries were related to their jobs. However, certain steps must be followed. They include:
- Reporting your injury to your employer within 30 days
- Getting medical treatment from an employer-approved physician who can diagnose your occupational injury and confirm that it’s work-related
- Filing a claim by submitting Form WC-14 to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation
While the process may seem straightforward, legitimate claims are denied every single day in Georgia, so you should seek help from an experienced work injury attorney if your claim is initially denied and you want to file an appeal.
Get help with your claim from an experienced Georgia workers’ compensation attorney
Due to the long-term complications and treatment associated with a Lisfranc injury, it’s essential that you seek the advice of an experienced work injury attorney before accepting a settlement offer from your employer’s insurance company. An attorney can take into account your future medical expenses and work limitations to negotiate a settlement that’s in your best interest.
If you suffered a Lisfranc injury at work, contact Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys for help with your claim. Our attorneys have been fighting for the rights of injured workers in Atlanta for more than 75 years, and we’d love the opportunity to help you as well. We offer free consultations, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Contact our office today to schedule an appointment and learn more about your rights.