Crush injuries occur when a part of the body, such as a hand, arm, leg, foot or trunk is squashed. Often there is little damage on the outside, but the hidden damage has occurred on the inside.
Crush injuries are common on farms, particularly those involving the hands. The most serious cases occur in agriculture where heavy machinery is used and people become trapped under them or in them.
Crush injuries can happen:
• During tractor and quad bike rollovers
• While using heavy equipment
• When moving large hay or wool bales
• While dealing with animals in yards or small spaces
• During logging or cutting firewood
• While moving farm equipment.
Crush injuries can cause compartment syndrome or crush injury syndrome which can both have serious consequences.
Compartment syndrome can occur when muscles inside a ‘compartment’ of a limb swell so much that blood flow is blocked. The fascia, which covers the muscles, is not very elastic and does not stretch, forcing the pressure from the swelling inwards, compressing nerves and blood vessels. It can be caused by many things including being crushed under a heavy object.
Crush injury syndrome
Crush injury syndrome occurs when a large area of muscle is compressed and starved of blood flow over a several hours. This causes the muscle cells to break down, releasing acids and other chemicals. When the pressure is removed these chemicals are released and can cause serious damage as they travel to the heart and kidneys.
First aid requires careful assessment. If the area has been compressed for a long time it may be best to wait for emergency services to arrive, or seek advice when you call Triple zero (000), before removing the crushing weight, as a tourniquet or intravenous fluids may be needed before the weight is released.
A crush injury occurs when the body or a body part is trapped, pinched or jammed under or between objects. The pressure can harm skin, muscles, nerves or bone, depending on the degree of force. On Victorian farms, the most commonly injured body parts are the hands and fingers.
Find out more about this topic on Better Health Channel
References used for this topic page
Medical Disability Guidelines
National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services Foundation (US)
Compartment syndrome vs. crush syndrome [PDF 3mb]
Safe Work Australia
Practical Plastic Surgery (Chapter 35)
Hand crush injury and compartment syndrome [PDF 109kb]
Research & reviews:
Safe Work Australia
Accident Analysis and Prevention
Last updated: 7th February, 2019