Ankle fractures and employment

A life-changing event for patients
PURPOSE: Ankle fractures, one of the most common types of orthopaedic injury, have been associated with reduced functional outcome and significant changes in long-term employment. Although information on unemployment following ankle fractures can be important in cases of financial compensation, no studies have investigated rates of short-term disability and employment status among patients who have suffered isolated ankle fractures in the US.
METHOD: We retrospectively reviewed 573 medical charts for patients who were treated for ankle fractures in the last 3 years at a level I trauma center. A total of 83 non-elderly patients that had isolated ankle fractures were contacted and surveyed over the phone. Patients were asked about employment history and current status, disability, type of fracture, and demographic information.
RESULTS: Fifty-three (62%) patients contacted were employed at the time of injury. In all, 34% (n = 18) of patients lost their job because of their injury, of which only 8 (44%) received new employment. A total of 15% (n = 8) of patients that were previously employed decided to no longer return to work. Ten patients (56%) received disability status.
CONCLUSIONS: Ankle fracture patients are likely to suffer high rates of unemployment or disability shortly after their injury. Further investigations with a larger-scale, randomized patient population can provide important information on employment status following ankle fractures. Implications for Rehabilitation A total of 47.0% of ankle fracture patients are unable to return to work within 5 years following injury. Patients in labour-intensive jobs are especially vulnerable to job loss and disability. Rehabilitation should have a greater focus on occupational therapy and work-related functioning. Improving patient compliance with attendance for rehabilitation may improve employment outcomes.

Source: Thakore RV, Hooe BS, Considine P, Sathiyakumar V, Onuoha G, Hinson JK, Obremskey WT, Sethi MK. Disabil. Rehabil. 2014.

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