Based on research gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 2.24 million people were injured in car accidents in 2020. Injuries vary from accident to accident because of varying factors, such as
- Did the injured party get hit from behind, side or front?
- Did the accident involve a “low-speed” collision – e.g. was the car stopped for a red light in the San Fernando Valley when hit from behind by a driver who was decelerating; or a “high-speed” collision – e.g. at an intersection in Santa Clarita when a driver tried to beat a red light by accelerating through the intersection?
- How was the injured party’s body positioned? Was he/she facing forward, or looking to the side when the collision occurred? Was his/her back resting on the seat at time of impact? What position was the driver’s hands on the steering wheel when the collision occurred?
- Was the injured person wearing a seat belt?
- Did the car have airbags and did the airbags deploy?
Even though injuries vary because of the different factors involved in each accident, there are common types of injuries that we commonly see occur more than others, regardless of whether the accident occurs in Santa Clarita or the San Fernando Valley. What are they?
Soft Tissue Injuries, Including Whiplash
The most common types of injuries resulting from car accidents are soft tissue injuries. What is a “soft tissue injury”?
A soft tissue injury occurs when muscles, tendons or ligaments suffer trauma. A commonly recognized soft tissue injury is “whiplash”. A whiplash injury occurs when muscles and ligaments in the neck area get stretched because of sudden movement caused in an accident.
For example, in a rear-end collision, the impact from behind suddenly forces the neck to move forward and then back. This sudden movement stretches out the muscles and ligaments, causing pain and stiffness in the neck and upper back areas.
Other types of soft issue injuries generally seen in a car accident include mid and low back sprains, and contusions.
In addition to stretching out muscles and ligaments, a rear-end collision can also change the spine’s alignment by straightening out the spine’s natural curve.
What would be the appropriate treatment? Generally, treatment for soft tissue injuries include chiropractic treatment, including manipulation, ultrasound, TENS unit and hot/cold packs; and/or physical therapy.
Car Accidents and Spine/Disk Injuries
A major collision can injure the spine in the neck or back areas. Depending on the severity of impact and the body’s position at the time of collision, the impact can cause bulging of the disks or rupture the disks.
What would be the appropriate treatment? As these injuries are serious, they require treatments from an orthopedic surgeon or a neurosurgeon. Additional treatment will likely include pain management.
Car Accidents and Head Injuries
A head injury can be severe, resulting in a loss of consciousness and a closed head injury. Such injuries typically occur in major car accidents, such as head-on collisions and T-bone accidents, because the force of the impact can cause the head to strike the interior portion of the car. These types of collisions also cause the head to jolt violently with force in different directions.
Other types of head injuries include bruising of the head area, and cuts to the head and face area caused by flying debris or a shattered window.
What would be the appropriate treatment? As these injuries are more serious, they require treatments from a surgeon, a neurosurgeon, a psychologist or a neuropsychologist.
Car Accidents and Chest Injuries
Chest injuries do not typically occur in minor collisions. However, they can definitely occur in a major collision, one involving a head-on collision or a T-bone accident.
These injuries include bruising of the chest area, a fractured sternum and/or broken ribs. These injuries typically occur because the driver of the car strikes the steering wheel or the dashboard. These injuries can also occur when the driver or a passenger gets struck in the chest area with the force of an airbag deploying.
What would be the appropriate treatment? Unfortunately, while these injuries are extremely painful, the best course of action is rest (and possibly pain medication) because treatment options are non-existent or limited.
Airbags are equipped with chemical sodium azide (NaN3) and potassium nitrate (KNO3). When the sensor on the car’s bumper is activated as a result of an accident, the chemicals ignite to produce nitrogen gas and inflate the airbag.
However, the same chemicals that help to inflate the airbag can cause burns on the hands, forearms, neck and/or the face.
What would be the appropriate treatment? Seek first aid treatment with paramedics, at urgent care or at the Emergency Toom.
Leg and Arm Injuries
Leg and arm injuries can occur the same way that a head injury occurs. Sometimes, a driver’s knee will be pushed forward and strike the dashboard, causing bruising, scrapes or even a fracture.
Sometimes, a side impact can cause the arms or legs to hit the door, steering wheel or other parts of the car’s interior, causing bruising and scrapes.
What would be the appropriate treatment? Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment could range from ice and rest (bruising) to surgery (fracture).