Whether commuting to and from work, taking our kids to school or soccer practice, or simply running errands, we all spend countless hours in the car on a regular basis. It comes as no surprise, then, that there are nearly 6 million accidents every year and another 10 million crashes that aren’t reported.
Car accidents of any caliber can be scary! There are so many factors that we cannot control when we are in the car such as the weather, other drivers, animals entering the road, etc. However, for the things that we can control (I.e. not texting and driving or obeying the laws), we can also save ourselves from injury.
Common Injuries After a Car Accident
It’s true... anything could happen during an accident. However, there are some injuries that are more common than others after an automobile accident. After 15 years of experience treating a variety of patients that have been involved in car accidents, these are what the Envision Sport team would consider the most common.
Whiplash – Whiplash is a soft tissue injury to the neck that occurs when there is a “forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement, like the cracking of a whip” which may result in stiffness, pain, and/or headaches. Whiplash most commonly occurs when you have been rear-ended, but can happen in other instances such as sports accidents and other traumas. When diagnosed by a medical professional, whiplash may also be referred to as a “neck sprain” or “strain.”
The most commons signs and symptoms of whiplash include: neck or upper shoulder pain, stiffness, limited range of motion, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, or tingling/numbness in the arms. Less common symptoms include: memory problems, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and blurred vision.
Broken ribs and other bones – Car accidents can also result in injuries to the skeletal system. The harsh impact of a car accident can cause the forcefully contact objects within the vehicle or other debris leading to broken bones. The bones that are most likely to become fractured or broken during a car crash include: the wrists, hip, ribs, clavicle (collar bone), or facial.
Concussion - Concussions and whiplash go hand-in-hand when it comes to car accidents. A concussion is considered a traumatic brain injury. A concussion occurs when a force causes the brain to move rapidly back and forth within the skull. In an accident, this could be from whiplash or your head being forced into another object (I.e. steering wheel, window, etc.). Some of the most common signs that indicate you may have suffered a concussion include: headaches, inability to fall asleep, irritability, confusion, ringing in the ears, the inability to concentrate, dizziness, or nausea.
Herniated Disc – When stress is placed on the spine, there is a possibility of a disc moving out of place, also known as a herniated disc. Depending on the severity of the herniation, the individual may notice pain, numbness, or tingling into the arms/hands, legs, or feet.
Lacerations - A person may suffer a cut or laceration in an accident where glass windows break, if ejected from the vehicles, a vehicle rolls over, or if they come into contact with a sharp object.
Who Should You See After a Car Accident
In some cases, if the accident is reported and emergency personnel are called to the scene, you may be required to get checked out by a medical professional. However, in more minor accidents (say fender benders), after the report is taken, everyone is sent on their way.
We would advise that if you are in any automobile accident, it is wise to consult with a medical professional, especially since symptoms could have a delayed onset. Did you know that it could take almost 2 weeks for symptoms to present themselves?
If you’ve been in an accident, here’s who you should see.
Emergency Room – If the car accident just happened and you are already noticing symptoms or an injury and the emergency staff doesn’t take you, you may consider heading for the nearest emergency room. Allow the medical staff to do a thorough exam and give you their professional opinion. It is important to tell them details of what happened as well as any symptoms you are experiencing so they can give you the most accurate information possible.
Physician – If it’s not an emergency situation, it is still wise to make an appointment to see your physician within 24-48 hours after the accident. Explain to them the details of the automobile accident. If you are experiencing symptoms, explain to them as thoroughly as possible. If you aren’t experiencing symptoms, explain to the medical staff that you feel more comfortable getting evaluated. They may order imaging studies to confirm or rule out possible bony or soft tissue injuries.
Physical Therapy – Physical therapy can help you overcome the pain and injuries following an automobile accident. Whether it’s a herniation, broken bone (after fully healed), or concussion, a physical therapist can get you back to your usual self.
Occupational Therapy – In some instances, an occupational therapist may be the better option for you (as opposed to a physical therapist).
Car accidents are, unfortunately, common! We hope you never experience a car accident, but if you do, we are here to help.
If you've suffered a car accident and are ready to get started in physical therapy or are wondering if physical therapy can help you after your accident, contact the Envision Sport team. We would be happy to guide you in the right direction .
Driving-tests.org, "The Ultimate List of Driving Statistics for 2019-2020," https://driving-tests.org/driving-statistics/
Mayo Clinic, "Whiplash,"https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/whiplash/symptoms-causes/syc-20378921