Medical Negligence

Footballer who broke leg left with nerve damage after delayed treatment


Vince Shore

Joint Head of Clinical Negligence (Hull)

3 min read time

A 22-year-old man left with long-term nerve damage in his foot has been awarded £10,000 compensation for failures in hospital treatment after breaking his leg playing football.

The man underwent an operation to fix his broken tibia and fibula bones but began suffering intense pressure in his foot overnight, leading to blood seeping through his bandaging.

He continued to suffer intense pain for a number of hours, despite being given a combination of liquid and intravenous painkillers. When reviewed the following morning he was said to have a pain score of ‘10’ and symptoms described as ‘concerning’.

He eventually underwent emergency surgery to cut tissue around the area and relieve the swelling and pressure but has been left with continuing problems arising from nerve damage, including loss of movement, numbness, tingling, muscle weakness and pain.

As part of a legal claim led by medical negligence specialists, Hudgell Solicitors, it was alleged doctors had failed to diagnose and treat compartment syndrome – a condition which causes bleeding or swelling around muscles – appropriately. It is a recognised medical emergency which usually occurs in the legs, feet, arms or hands and is often caused by a fracture or severe injury. It can lead to permanent muscle damage if not treated quickly.

It was further alleged that a decision was taken to give the man an injection of anaesthetic into his spine, rather than general anaesthetic after the operation, which made it more difficult for doctors to spot the worsening condition.

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Surgeon had warned doctors to closely monitor condition after operation

Vince Shore, joint head of clinical negligence at Hudgell Solicitors, said:

This is a case where sadly a young man has been left with long-term, potentially life-long problems from an injury thousands of others who play contact sports recover fully from.

It was a frightening experience for him as he could sense the swelling to the leg worsening overnight. He suddenly found himself in excruciating pain, with intense pressure building in his foot and blood coming through his bandages.

Our investigations highlighted that many clinicians are of the view that spinal anaesthetic makes the identification of post-operative compartment syndrome more difficult to spot should such a complication occur, and that given our client was otherwise fit and healthy, there were no benefits to doing this.

Our client was also adamant there was no conversation between himself and clinicians as to the risks and benefits of the two kinds of anaesthetic, which would have been a breach of duty of care, although this was denied and the Trust insisted such a conversation had happened.

What was admitted however was the failure to follow clear post-operative instructions from the operating surgeon that very close checks for compartment syndrome needed to be carried out after the spinal anaesthetic wore off, and that the developing problem was missed overnight.

As part of the case, we also highlighted poor standards of anaesthetic record keeping, as there was no documentation or information relating to anaesthetic consent or any documentation pertaining to potential risks and benefits of spinal anaesthetic.

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