The most recent available data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that in 2016, there were 7,277,000 auto accidents in the U.S. That breaks down to an average of 19,937 accidents each day, which does not include the countless accidents that went unreported. Being involved in an auto accident can be a traumatizing event with many opportunities for disaster. You could be facing property damage, serious injuries, wage losses, hospital fees, emotional damages, and more. The most important asset to take care of after an accident is yourself.
Since injuries are not always immediately apparent and may not be until after your injuries have worsened, it’s imperative to get yourself checked out immediately after you’ve been in an accident. You only have 14 days from the date of the accident to seek medical attention in order to be covered under your auto insurance’s personal injury protection policy. Even if you feel fine, schedule an appointment with your local auto accident doctor to make sure you don’t have any underlying injuries that will need medical attention. Here are some common bodily injuries that we frequently see as the result of an accident.
Soft tissue injuries are those that involve injuries to tendons, muscles, and ligaments. They most commonly seen in those who play sports, but can also be the result of a high impact car wreck. They can include:
- Bursitis – The painful condition that includes swelling, or irritation of the bursae (the small, fluid-filled sac located by the joints) that usually occurs in the shoulder, knee, elbow, or hip.
- Contusions – Areas of the skin or underlying tissue where blood capillaries have ruptured. Also called a bruise, these injuries can happen when your body is hit with blunt force by another object, or vice versa.
- Sprains – The damage or tearing of a ligament or ligaments surrounding a joint. Sprains usually occur when a joint has been taken beyond its normal range of movement.
- Strains – Injuries to the muscle or tendon caused by overuse, stretching, or force.
- Tendonitis – Irritation or inflammation of the tendon. In an auto accident injury, this might be caused by sudden or direct force applied to the area of concern.
Whiplash is a neck injury that can occur when the neck is forced to move forward and backward in a quick motion, like the cracking of a whip. It usually occurs during rear-end collisions, but can be a result of other types of collisions as well. Symptoms of whiplash include pain and swelling of the neck and shoulders. In some instances, physical therapy or neck injections may be required for persistent pain, so it’s important to get yourself checked out right away.
The Mayo Clinic reported that car accidents account for nearly 50% of all reported spinal cord injuries. A spinal cord injury results from damage to the spinal cord or to the ligaments, discs, or vertebrae of the spinal column. A car accident can cause a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that can crush, compress, dislocate, or fracture the vertebrae. Additional injury can occur in the days or weeks following the accident due to inflammation, swelling, fluid accumulation, and bleeding around the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries can include:
- Claudication – A common symptom of lumbar spinal stenosis, causing inflammation of the nerves emerging from the spinal cord.
- Bulging, Degenerating, or Herniated Discs – A condition where the soft center of a spinal disk pushes through a crack in the tougher exterior casing. It can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness, or weakness in an arm or leg.
- Sciatica – Pain radiating along the sciatic nerve, which runs down one or both legs from the lower back. It’s primarily caused when a herniated disk or bone spur in the spine presses on the nerve. It usually only affects one side of the body.
Wearing your seat belt is one of the most important decisions you can make when getting into a vehicle. It can save your life and prevent further debilitating injuries in the event of an accident. However, that doesn’t mean wearing one will leave you without injury. Medical professionals have coined the term “seat belt syndrome” to include a handful of common injuries that occur in accidents from the seat belt itself. The abdomen, chest, neck, and spine are the areas of the body that are primarily affected by seat belt syndrome.
- Abdomen – The stomach, small and large intestines, liver, spleen, and pancreas often experience bruising or tearing.
- Chest – Bruising, lacerations, and rashes from the belt can be clearly visible and painful. The belt can also cause rib and sternum fractures, damage to the lungs and trachea, connective tissue and cartilage tearing, damage to the chest wall, and heart contusions.
- Spine & Neck – Spinal injuries are the most common since the spine is the shock absorber for the body. Injuries can include fractures, paralysis, damage to facet joints, and damaged discs.
Many injuries can also occur because seat belts are not being worn or faceted correctly. The concept of the belt is to keep the body aligned and sitting up straight so any potential blow or force would be distributed evenly across the body. Always wear your seat belt, and wear it correctly.
Similar to the primary function of a seat belt, the deployment of an airbag is to ensure the damage during a collision is lessened and your body does not receive the full force of the blow. However, you can still experience additional injuries because of an airbag. Depending on the speed you and the other driver were going at the time of the crash, as well as the trajectory of each vehicle in relation to one another, you may experience:
- Whiplash from the force of the bag against your head and neck
- Damage to your eyes if they remained open while the airbag deployed
- Broken or fractured nose
- Irritation to eyes and skin from chemicals and dust on the airbag
- Other injuries due to the airbag’s deployment
Every injury is different. The best way to handle any injuries you’ve sustained is to begin the healing process with the best treatments for each injury. If you’ve been in a car accident, it’s imperative that you seek medical treatment immediately to ensure your body is functioning properly and no injuries go undetected for any period of time.
|Travis Utter, DC, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from the University of Central Florida in Orlando and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic. He received additional training in NCV/EMG from the Neurodiagnostics Institute and in whiplash and accident reconstruction from the Spine Research Institute of San Diego. Dr. Utter is certified in whiplash and accident reconstruction.|