Car accidents account for an astounding amount of injuries on a yearly basis. In fact, there are around 2.35 million people injured or disabled due to auto accidents throughout a typical year. Often the injuries that occur are different from what people typically expect.
Everyone knows that neck and back strains are common in car accidents, generally referred to as “whiplash.” But these injuries can be much more serious than just a mild strain. Sometimes the force of a collision causes the tissue between the vertebrae of the spine to balloon out or rupture. This is called a “herniated disc.” A herniated disc can put pressure on and inflame nerves coming out of the spine. This causes very severe pain, loss of feeling, and even loss of control of your muscles, typically in your arms or legs.
These symptoms might occur right away, but also can develop in the weeks and months following an auto accident. These injuries require surgery at times, and can cause long-term disability.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
When your head whips back and forth in an auto accident, or if your head strikes something inside your car, your brain can be impacted. This impact to the brain, called a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause long-term damage to brain function. These injuries are insidious, as they are not always obvious right away. Months later, the injured person or his family may notice that he or she is becoming forgetful, or is undergoing a personality change, often becoming less patient or even extremely irritated or angry, when that was not their normal state previously.
Anyone who has suffered a concussion, or been knocked unconscious, or has had headaches after a motor vehicle accident should watch carefully for the signs of TBI, and seek a neurological consultation if TBI is suspected.
Often during a motor vehicle collision, a driver or passenger is thrown forward and will strike their knee on the dashboard. This can result in direct trauma to the knee which can result in many different types of injuries, such as a shattered patella (knee cap.)
The cartilage of the knee can also be damaged, resulting in a torn meniscus, or patellar chrondromalcia. Sometimes, similar injuries will occur when a driver jams on the brakes so hard to avoid a collision that his knee is forcefully compressed. These are painful conditions, often requiring surgery. And again, the severity of the injury is not always obvious right away, as it might take some time for more subtle injuries to develop enough inflammation that they become obvious.
Because your shoulder belt only wraps over one shoulder, much of the force from an auto accident can be focused on that one shoulder when you are thrown forward by the impact of a motor vehicle collision. This can also impart a twisting motion to your body. These forces can cause many different injuries to the shoulder, ranging from deep bruising, to shoulder strains, or even severe tears of the shoulder ligaments that will require surgery to repair.
Shoulder injuries often worsen over time and become chronic, so don’t ignore any shoulder symptoms after a motor vehicle collision. Get them checked out by your physician!
When someone undergoes a traumatic event, it is not just our bodies that can be damaged. Our psychological and emotional state can also be seriously affected. People who have been in serious automobile accidents can develop a “phobia,” which means the person has developed an unusual fear of driving or even being in a car.
These can become so severe that a person with a car phobia can become completely housebound, unable to use a vehicle for any purpose. When phobias develop, it is very important that psychological care be provided immediately. Psychologists have good techniques to help patients overcome phobias. But phobias that are not treated often become longstanding and very difficult to treat. If someone is afraid of driving or being in a car after a motor vehicle collision, make sure they seek psychological care immediately.
As you see, many of these injuries are very serious, but are not always obvious immediately after a car accident, so be on the lookout for them. And most of them are likely to get worse over time if not recognized or treated. Always have any symptoms carefully checked out and documented by a physician.