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Part 11

In persons who jumping from any high object pitch upon their heel with great force, the bones are separated, and the veins pour forth their contents, owing to the contusion of the flesh surrounding the bone, and hence a swelling and much pain supervene. For this bone (os calcis) is not a small one, protrudes beyond the line of the leg, and is connected with important veins and tendons; for the back tendon of the leg is inserted into this bone. Such cases are to be treated with cerate, and with compresses and bandages; and hot water is to be used in large quantity; and they require many bandages, which ought to be particularly good and appropriate. And if the patient happen to have a tender skin about the heel, nothing is to be done to it; but if, as some have it, the skin be thick and hardened, it is to be pared down smoothly and thinned, but without wounding it. It is not everybody who can apply the bandage properly in such cases; for if one shall bind the parts, as in other accidents about the ankle, sometimes bringing a fold round the foot and sometimes round the tendon, these turns leave out the heel, which is the seat of the contusion, and thus there is danger that the os calcis may sphacelate; and if this should take place, the impediment may endure for life and also in all the other cases of sphacelus, not proceeding from such a cause as this; as when, from being carelessly allowed to lie in a certain position during confinement to bed, the heel becomes black, or when a serious wound has occurred in the leg and it is long of healing, and is connected with the heel, or when the same thing happens in the thigh, or when in any disease a protracted decubitus takes place[p. 182] on the back, in all such cases the sores are inveterate, troublesome, and frequently break out again, unless particular attention be paid to the cure, along with much rest, as in all the cases attended with sphacelus. And cases of sphacelus connected with this cause, in addition to other inconveniences, are attended with great danger to the whole body. For they are apt to be attended with very acute fevers, of the continual type, accompanied with tremblings, hiccup, aberration of intellect, and which prove fatal within a few days: and there may be lividities of bloody veins1, with nausea, and gangrene from pressure; these diseases may occur, besides the sphacelus.2 Those which have been described are the most violent contusion; but in general the contusions are mild, and no great care is required with regard to the treatment, and yet it must be conducted properly. But when the contusion appears to be severe, we must do as described above, making many turns of the bandage around the heel, sometimes carrying it to the extremity of the foot, sometimes to the middle, and sometimes around the leg; and, in addition, all the surrounding parts are to be bandaged in this direction and that, as formerly described; and the compression should not be made strong, but we should make use of many bandages, and it is better also to administer hellebore the same day or on the morrow; and the bandages should be removed on the third day and reapplied. And these are the symptoms by which we discover whether the case will get worse or not: when the extravasated blood, the lividities, and the surrounding parts become red and hard, there is danger of an exacerbation. But if there be no fever, we must give emetics, as has been said, and administer[p. 183] the other remedies which are applicable when the fever is not of a continual type; but if continual fever be present, we must not give strong medicines, but enjoin abstinence from solid food and soups, and give water for drink, and not allow wine but oxyglyky (a composition from vinegar and honey?). But if the case be not going to get worse, the ecchymosed and livid parts, and those surrounding them become greenish and not hard; for this is a satisfactory proof in all cases of ecchymosis, that they are not to get worse; but when lividity is complicated with hardness, there is danger that the part may become blackened. And we must so manage the foot as that it may be generally raised a little higher than the rest of the body. Such a patient will get well in sixty days if he keep quiet.

1 By bloody viens is meant veins of a largge size, as Galen explains. Contusions of such necessarily produce extravasation and hemorrage, and the other bad consequences described by our author.

2 That gangrene should have often supervened in such a case, as described by our author, need not appear surprising. It shows that Hippocrates had a wonderful talent for original observation when he was able to detect and describe such a case; and it ought to teach our profession a lesson of humility, in comparing our present state of knowledge with that of our forefathers, when we thus find that the "old man of Cos," twenty-two centuries ago, understood the nature of this accident better than many of us did not many years since.

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