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What Is Considered A Traumatic Injury?

What Is Considered A Traumatic Injury?

There are many types of injuries a person can sustain, but not all of them are classified as traumatic. This article breaks down the what and how of traumatic injuries so you can know if you or someone close to you has sustained one and how to go about treating or identifying the injury.


The physical definition of trauma refers to a physical injury which may result in wounds, broken bones or internal organ damage. It is common that a person who experiences physical trauma will also experience psychological trauma due to the shock of an unexpected injury.

A traumatic injury refers to physical injuries that happen suddenly and where the severity requires immediate medical attention. The trauma is caused by varied degrees of injury from outside of the body, which can either be blunt or penetrating/sharp. Blunt trauma includes falls, car accidents; crush injuries, assaults and burns. Penetrating trauma involves shooting, stabbing or falling onto a sharp object.

Types of Traumatic Injuries

Some of the most common types of traumatic injuries include:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Spine fractures
  • Amputation (not scheduled)
  • Crush injuries
  • Concussions
  • Broken or dislocated bones
  • Skull fracture
  • Cuts and puncture wounds
  • Collapsed lungs
  • Myocardial contusion
  • Burns
  • Electrocution
  • Brain hemorrhages


An injury can be relatively minor, such as cutting your finger while opening a can in the kitchen or breaking a bone playing sports in your driveway. While these aren’t any fun to have happen to us, you can usually recover at home and the time spent in the hospital is minimal. 

Traumatic injury, however, can be far more serious. Often, traumatic injuries require being admitted to a hospital for assessment and treatment. The full extent of a traumatic injury is not always apparent when a patient first arrives at hospital, and may require in-depth examination and multiple tests, such as MRIs or X-rays, and may require emergency or non-emergency surgery.

When a person arrives at the hospital with a traumatic injury, the severity of the injury is calculated using a scoring system called the injury severity score (or ISS for short.) Once all injuries have been documented, this score is calculated. This helps to see if the patient requires more intensive care or to be moved to a different hospital with more specialized equipment to deal with the person’s trauma. 

The ISS correlates with mortality, morbidity and hospitalization time after traumatic injury. The score classifies each injury in every body region according to its relative severity on a six point scale that checks severity of injury:

  1. Minor
  2. Moderate
  3. Serious
  4. Severe
  5. Critical
  6. Maximal (currently untreatable)

There are six body regions used in the ISS as well, they are:

  1. Head / Neck
  2. Face
  3. Thorax
  4. Abdomen / Pelvis
  5. Extremities
  6. External


Research shows that getting to the hospital in the first 60 minutes after the occurrence of a major trauma is critical. Adult and pediatric trauma surgeons, trauma staff and resources are ready and dedicated 24/7 to provide a unique level of response so that critically injured patients will have the best possible chance of survival and the least residual disability from their injuries. 

Certain hospitals are designated as Major Trauma Centers (called MTCs) where they are prepared with a bevy of medical specialties on site. These centers are responsible for treating the most severely injured patients or those with multiple injuries. 

There are also Trauma Units (TUs), which are acute hospitals where patients with less severe traumatic injuries are treated. Patients may be transferred to a trauma unit closer to home once they are cleared at an MTC. Some patients can be discharged to their home directly from the MTC as well.

Psychological Trauma

While this article focused on the physical aspects of major trauma, it is very important to note that psychological trauma is just as important to diagnose and get treatment for. There are 3 major types of psychological trauma: acute, chronic and complex.  Often, psychological trauma is coupled with different types of physical trauma and needs to be treated as well. Whatever the type of trauma, if a person finds it difficult to recover from the distressing experience, they should absolutely seek psychological help as soon as possible. Mental health is as important as physical health qualified psychologists are trained and able to assist those who have experienced trauma in a healthy way.

Heal with Thunder Basin Orthopaedics

When you have an emergency, you need to know that you’re in the best hands. Traumatic orthopedic injuries, including damage to muscles, bones, joints, and tendons, will need expert orthopedic care.

Through rapid evaluation and treatment, Thunder Basin Orthopaedics is able to effectively and safely address your injury while reducing the potential for long-term complications from trauma. We have advanced training and experience in treating non-healing fractures, pelvis, and misaligned fractures, as well as other tertiary care. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment or talk to our staff right away about your injury.

Medical Disclaimer:

Call 911 immediately if you believe you are experiencing a medical emergency. Do not rely on communication through this website for urgent medical needs.