Car accidents can result in a wide range of injuries, varying in severity from minor cuts and bruises to life-threatening conditions. Some typical car accident injuries include:
Whiplash is a neck injury due to forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck, like the cracking of a whip.
Whiplash is commonly caused by rear-end car accidents. But whiplash can also result from sports accidents, physical abuse and other types of traumas, such as a fall. Whiplash may be called a neck sprain or strain, but these terms also include other types of neck injuries.
Most people with whiplash get better within a few weeks by following a treatment plan that includes pain medication and exercise. However, some people have chronic neck pain and other long-lasting complications.
Fractures and Broken Bones:
Although bones are rigid, they do bend, or give, somewhat when an outside force is applied. However, if the force is too great, bones will break, just as a plastic ruler breaks when it is bent too far.
The severity of a fracture usually depends on the force that caused the break. If the bone’s breaking point has been exceeded only slightly, the bone may crack rather than break all the way through. If the force is extreme, such as that caused by an automobile crash or gunshot, the bone may shatter.
If the bone breaks in such a way that bone fragments stick out through the skin, or a wound penetrates down to the broken bone, the fracture is called an open fracture. This type of fracture is particularly serious because once the skin is broken, infection in both the wound and the bone can occur.
A head injury is any trauma to the scalp, skull, or brain.
Head injury can be either closed or open (penetrating).
- A closed head injury means you received a hard blow to the head from striking an object, but the object did not break the skull.
- An open, or penetrating, head injury means you were hit with an object that broke the skull and entered the brain. This is more likely to happen when you move at high speed, such as going through the windshield during a car accident. It can also happen from a gunshot to the head.
Head injuries include:
- Concussion, in which the brain is shaken, is the most common type of traumatic brain injury.
- Scalp wounds.
- Skull fractures.
Head injuries may cause bleeding:
- In the brain tissue
- In the layers that surround the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage, subdural hematoma, epidural hematoma)
Head injury is a common reason for an emergency room visit. A large number of people who suffer head injuries are children. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) accounts for over 1 in 6 injury-related hospital admissions each year.
Back injuries, especially to the lower back, are very common. Any injury to the back’s bones, joints, connective tissue, muscles or nerves can cause pain and discomfort.
Injuries can affect any part of the back, but most injuries happen in the lower back. Common injuries include sprains and strains, herniated disks or fractured vertebrae. The injuries vary in seriousness depending on the cause of the injury and what damage is done.
Severe back injuries include fractures (a break in a bone), wounds, extensive bruising and damage to your spinal cord and internal organs.
Any of the following symptoms could indicate a severe back injury. You should see a doctor right away if you have:
- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- problems with urinating or passing stool (poo)
- numbness or pins and needles to the arms, legs, hands or feet
- blood in the urine
Seek medical assistance immediately by calling an ambulance. Do not move the person unless they are in danger and advise the person to not move their back. Support their head, neck and spine and prevent twisting or bending movements.
Cuts and Abrasions:
Skin is the largest organ of the human body. It is soft to allow movement, but tough enough to resist breaking or tearing. It varies in texture and thickness from one part of the body to the next. It consists of two main layers – the epidermis and the dermis.
The epidermis refers to the surface layer and is made of several sheets of skin cells. The dermis lies underneath and consists of elastic fibres (elastin), for suppleness, and protein fibres (collagen) for strength. Sebaceous glands, hair follicles, nerves and blood vessels are found in the dermis.
The two broad categories of skin wounds include abrasions and incised wounds.
Chest injuries are injuries to the chest area — anywhere between the neck and the abdomen. Damage may be to the chest wall — the bones (including ribs and sternum), skin, fat and muscles protecting your lungs — or any of the organs inside the chest (for example the heart or lungs).
Chest injuries can be minor, such as bruising, or serious problems that need urgent medical attention. They may be caused by blunt force or by a penetrating injury.
Chest injuries include:
- bruising or abrasions to the chest area
- broken bones — for example, a rib fracture or fractured sternum (breastbone)
- flail chest — where multiple ribs next to each other are broken and that segment of the chest wall moves separately to the rest
- damage to the heart, for example, blunt injury to the heart, or injury to the aorta — the main artery that delivers blood to the rest of your body
- damage to the lungs — for example, bruising (pulmonary contusion)
- penetrating chest wounds — these can damage the chest wall and any of the internal organs within the chest
- injuries to the oesophagus (food pipe), trachea (windpipe) or diaphragm
Soft Tissue Injuries:
The most common soft tissues injured are muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These injuries often occur during sports and exercise activities, but sometimes simple everyday activities can cause an injury.
Sprains, strains, and contusions, as well as tendinitis and bursitis, are common soft-tissue injuries. Even with appropriate treatment, these injuries may require a prolonged amount of time to heal.
Some of the most common types of internal injuries include internal bleeding, rib and torso injuries, pneumothorax, organ damage, ruptured spleen and abdominal aorta rupture.
An internal bleeding injury happens when blood vessels become damaged and are unable to clot or repair themselves in any way. An internal bleeding injury can become a serious medical emergency, depending on the location of the injury. If left untreated, an internal bleeding injury can result in cardiac arrest and wrongful death.
Rib and Torso Injuries
More than two million car accidents every year result in some type of rib and torso injury. These injuries are often extremely painful since the simple act of breathing can cause excruciating agony. Additionally, the treatment of rib and torso injuries can often become costly.
Pneumothorax is one of, if not the most severe type of torso injury. In this type of injury, a broken rib punctures the lung and causes the lung to collapse. Once the lung collapses, air can enter into the chest cavity. An abnormal collection of air in the space that separates the lung from the chest wall can interfere with normal breathing.
It is possible for any organ to become so damaged from the force of impact that internal bleeding results that will eventually shutdown the affected organ entirely.
A car accident victim can suffer from a ruptured spleen when an impact happens on the left side of the body. Once a spleen has been removed, a patient must receive immunizations to prevent infections, like pneumonia. Treatment of splenic ruptures can be very expensive and completely deteriorate the quality of life of the victim.
Abdominal Aorta Rupture
The aorta can become ruptured if the stomach becomes compressed in a collision. This type of injury is usually fatal. Large amounts of blood spill into the abdominal cavity and can often result in death within minutes of this type of injury occurring.
Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships, and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea.
While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives. Psychologists can help them find constructive ways of managing their emotions.
Burns are a type of painful wound caused by thermal, electrical, chemical, or electromagnetic energy. Smoking and open flame are the leading causes of burn injury for older adults. Scalding is the leading cause of burn injury for children. Both infants and the older adults are at the greatest risk for burn injury.
What are the different types of burns?
There are many types of burns caused by thermal, radiation, chemical, or electrical contact.
- Thermal burns. These burns are due to heat sources which raise the temperature of the skin and tissues and cause tissue cell death or charring. Hot metals, scalding liquids, steam, and flames, when coming into contact with the skin, can cause thermal burns.
- Radiation burns. These burns are due to prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun, or to other sources of radiation such as X-ray.
- Chemical burns. These burns are due to strong acids, alkalies, detergents, or solvents coming into contact with the skin or eyes.
- Electrical burns. These burns are from electrical current, either alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC).
Amputation is the loss or removal of a body part such as a finger, toe, hand, foot, arm or leg. It can be a life changing experience affecting your ability to move, work, interact with others and maintain your independence. Continuing pain, phantom limb phenomena and emotional trauma can complicate recovery.
A person can experience a traumatic amputation from a motor vehicle, occupational or industrial accident or combat injury. Traumatic injury accounts for about 45% of all amputations. A body part can be cut off or torn away in a severe accident, or it can be so badly damaged from a crush injury or severe burns that it cannot be saved.
If tissue destruction, infection or disease affects a body part in a way that makes it impossible to repair or endangers the person’s life, that part may be removed by surgical amputation.
Facial trauma is an injury of the face. It may include the facial bones such as the upper jaw bone (maxilla).
Facial injuries can affect the upper jaw, lower jaw, cheek, nose, eye socket, or forehead. They may be caused by blunt force or be the result of a wound.
Symptoms may include:
- Changes in feeling over the face
- Deformed or uneven face or facial bones
- Difficulty breathing through the nose due to swelling and bleeding
- Double vision
- Missing teeth
- Swelling or bruising around the eyes that may cause vision problems
A joint is a structure where two or more bones meet and fit together. Other tissues within a joint include ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and synovial fluid. Joint problems arise when something goes wrong with any of these structures.
Signs and symptoms of joint conditions vary according to the specific problem. Pain is a common symptom and varies with the cause. It can feel sharp and severe or dull and achy. Other symptoms include stiffness, limited range of motion, and swelling and warmth over the joint. In fractures and dislocations, the joint may have a noticeable deformity.
Many joint conditions and injuries also affect the muscles. As a result, you may notice muscle aches, tenderness, or bruising.
Peripheral nerves send messages from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. They help do things such as sense that the feet are cold and move the body’s muscles for walking. Peripheral nerves are made of fibers called axons that are insulated by surrounding tissues.
Peripheral nerves are fragile and easily damaged. A nerve injury can affect the brain’s ability to communicate with muscles and organs. Damage to the peripheral nerves is called peripheral neuropathy.
It’s important to get medical care for a peripheral nerve injury as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment may prevent complications and permanent damage.
It’s important to seek medical attention after a car accident, even if injuries seem minor at first, as some injuries may not show symptoms immediately. Timely medical care can help prevent complications and ensure proper treatment. Additionally, documenting injuries and seeking legal advice if needed is important for potential insurance claims or legal actions related to the accident.