WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR BODY IN A CAR ACCIDENT?

Functional medicine

Well, for one thing, your body may have taken a battering and be bruised and injured in places that you don’t even know (Miraudo, 2016).

Your immediate challenge is to deal with the possible after-effects caused by the impact on your own body. Although modern cars are designed with inherent safety features that help minimise the physical effects of a collision on the vehicle passengers, the human body nonetheless becomes a virtual punch-bag in a car crash. 

Of particular concern is what happens inside your body with injuries as a result of a car accident that are often not visible. Even accidents at a low speed, in vehicles with top-rated safety features, can result in a devastating internal injury.

So while you may also need to attend to the legal, insurance and autobody steps after an accident, these are secondary to your own wellness and wellbeing which should take centre stage.

What are the most common injuries sustained in a car accident? 

According to the recent 2019 car crash statistics in the USA (Kraft & Associates, 2019) these are:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Spinal cord injuries and paralysis (quadriplegia/tetraplegia and paraplegia)
  • Back Injuries
  • Burns
  • Internal injuries
  • Fractures and broken bones.

How severe are my injuries? 

Sometimes the extent and severity of your injury or injuries may only become apparent after time (Reid et al).
Where, when and how the effects of these injuries could manifest are also influenced by several factors, including:

  • where on your body your injuries were sustained
  • the speed that you were traveling at when the crash occurred 
  • whether you experienced a head-on, side, or rear-end impact
  • whether you were wearing a seatbelt at the time of your accident
  • whether and where you were exposed to airbag activations
  • what degree of stress your body has absorbed through the sudden transfer of kinetic energy resulting in blunt-force trauma caused by the car accident
  • how soon after your injuries were sustained you received treatment
  • the extent of the initial or stabilising treatment received.

What symptoms may provide vital clues to my condition and the extent of my injuries?

If you present any of the following symptoms, either on their own or in combination with one another, this is a strong indicator that you have underlying and non-apparent injuries that need to be investigated further and properly treated. You may experience:

  • Headaches
  • A blurred vision
  • Vertigo, disorientation and/or dizziness
  • Restrictive movement of your limbs
  • Feeling nauseas
  • Some memory loss
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Problems sleeping
  • Swelling on parts of your body
  • Pains in your back or shoulder
  • Neck stiffness
  • Numbness in your hands or feet.

All the relevant factors above need to be taken into consideration when determining the course of remedial action to take. Your recovery depends upon it, which can only occur if you follow the correct injury treatment protocols. 

So, what do you do after a car accident? What do you do if you have been injured in a car crash?

These two questions have the same answer. Your immediate next steps following a car accident should be to:

This is precisely where Dr Matt Le Roux, specialist chiropractor, steps in. He has developed a highly effective remedial action plan that provides a complete medical treatment process to assist and aid injured patients in their long-term future recovery and pain management.
This treatment process consists of his tried and tested diagnostic system comprising: 

  • a detailed assessment of the patient following the post-traumatic incident,
  • identifying and locating the injury and its extent, including any associated short, medium, and long-term risks associated with the injury.
  • devising an appropriate holistic treatment process for the specific injuries of each patient, designed to reduce pain and to restore and/or rehabilitate the patient to the healthiest post-injury condition as quickly as possible.

The fact is: Early detection of your injury and the severity or extent thereof is critical to help manage or prevent potentially catastrophic long-term effects.

Dr Le Roux is skilled in the art of injury detection, injury stabilisation and injury management. Through his knowledge and applied skills, he can promote a quicker healing process designed to prevent any sustained or long-term period of suffering.

How do injuries sustained in a car accident occur?

When asked this question, Matt refers to a lesson he learnt as a youngster at school. The teacher told the class: “Every driver of a car should know Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion. The weight of the vehicle you travel in and the speed you travel at tells you the extent of the force needed to stop the car. The formula is FORCE (Newtons (N)) = MASS (Kg) x ACCELERATION (Km/h)”  The faster you go, the better the braking system you need to reduce the speed and to eventually stop the car. The bigger the car, and the more people in it, and the further the distance you need to stop. 

A head-on collision is akin to hitting the proverbial brick wall. This is quite simply a “no-contest” for the human body –  a lot of kinetic energy that needs to go somewhere, with only the body to absorb this punch.
This explains why the body can suffer so many different types of impact injuries after a car accident.

The human body is amazing though. For example, it has a built-in protective system, starting with Adrenaline, that kicks into gear the moment an injury occurs. Adrenaline is often referred to as the “fight-or-flight hormone” (Cafasso. 2018). Virtually any stressful, exciting, dangerous, or threatening situation causes it to be released in response to the threat or experience. This acts as a pain buffer and helps your body react more quickly. Adrenaline makes your heartbeat faster, thereby increasing essential blood flow to the brain and muscles, while also acting to stimulate the body to produce sugar that in turn is used for energy (fuel) to help fight off an attack.

This explains the what, why, how, and when of adrenaline. But, when this process is over, the pain starts to manifest itself and your body is effectively telling you that you need to get help, and fast.

What then are the typical injuries caused by car accidents? What do you do about these injuries?

When two cars crash into each other, depending upon the direction and amount of force of the impact, different types of injuries (and the severity thereof) may be sustained as your body suddenly twists and bends in ways that it is not designed to, nor able to manage (Console. 2020). 

If you know what the possibilities are, you will realise and appreciate why the effective treatment of your injuries will require expert medical advice, as soon as possible, and will likely require chiropractic knowledge.

To help make sense of this, we created the scenario analysis of Typical Injuries, Causes, and What To Do About Them, in Table 1 below, that highlights:

  • the typical injuries you may sustain in a car crash 
  • the possible causes
  • what you need to do about them
  • the frequency of occurrence and 
  • the level of severity.

For each injury type, we have included a number system to indicate the frequency and level of severity for each injury type.
These numbers rank between 1 (being a minimal or low frequency/risk) and 5 (being a critical or high frequency/risk).
Injuries may present themselves, but only after investigation and assessment by a qualified health practitioner can they be considered to be either minor or major injuries, or a combination of both.

Each case that is referred for chiropractic intervention will be assessed by Dr Le Roux on its own merits so that an appropriate course of therapy and levels of treatment may be applied for each patient.

TABLE 1: TYPICAL INJURIES, CAUSES AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT THEM.

Causes (Possible) What To Do About Them Frequency of Occurrence Level of Severity
SOFT TISSUE INJURIES
Bruising and Contusions Seatbelt Self-monitor and discuss with doctor 5 1
Whiplash Aggressive Braking or abrupt changes in speed or motion Present and discuss with doctor for therapeutic action 5 3
Neck and Back Injuries Intensity of car crash and location of blunt force trauma If pain persists after several days, or if you have a history of neck or back injuries or problems, consult with a qualified health practitioner to identify if you may have sustained a herniated disc 4 5
HEAD INJURIES
Concussions Hitting one’s head on parts of the car Seek prompt treatment from a qualified health practitioner 4 4
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) Hitting one’s head on parts of a car, being thrown out of a car and landing on one’s head These injuries can have potential life-altering effects. Immediate treatment by a qualified health practitioner is essential 3 5
MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL INJURIES
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Your body being exposed to extreme stress Treatment by psychologists and therapists is the best option, as soon as possible after the event 3 4
INTERNAL INJURIES
Broken Bones Skeletal stress fracture caused by body parts hitting parts of the vehicle Seek immediate assessment and appropriate treatment by a qualified health practitioner 5 3
Internal Bleeding Forces of the car crash causing internal organ damage and rupture  These are serious injuries which are very common in high-speed crashes. These could be life-threatening and therefore must be treated promptly. 3 5

 

Car Accident Tips to Remember:

Car Accident Statistics in the U.S. suggest that on average, 2 million drivers experience a permanent injury each year, and there is as high as a one-in-five chance of a car accident causing bodily injury (Dimovski. 2021). The summary of worldwide car crash statistics offers an interesting insight into this traumatic scenario in various countries.

It makes sense to be aware of what kind of injuries are common in car accident, and the purpose of this blog is to inform you about this and offers advice of what to do if you are involved in a collision.

Finally, when traveling in a car it is always good to wear a seatbelt properly and to ensure the same for all your passengers. While seatbelts may not prevent all injury, statistics have proven that the wearing of seatbelts protects your body from even worse damage.

If you are involved in a car accident and suspect that you may have sustained an injury, and assuming you are able to do so; either call an ambulance or request for medical assistance from your preferred service provider, perhaps even a good Samaritan, to help you to get to the hospital. Try to inform the treating health practitioner as much as possible about all your symptoms. Most importantly, remember that prompt treatment of your injuries by the right health practitioner is the best way to make sure that you recover as quickly and as fully as possible.

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REFERENCES:

Miraudo, S. 2016. Let Science Explain What Happens To Your Body In A Car Crash (It Ain’t Pretty)
https://studentedge.org/article/let-science-explain-what-happens-to-your-body-in-a-car-crash

Kraft & Associates. 2019. Possible Injuries After Car Accident 2019
https://www.kraftlaw.com/car-accidents/common-injuries-car-accidents/ 

Reid et al. Why Pain Sustained After an Auto Accident is Often Delayed
https://www.reidphysicians.com/blog/why-pain-sustained-after-an-auto-accident-is-often-delayed

The Physics Classroom. Newton’s Second Law
https://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/newtlaws/Lesson-3/Newton-s-Second-Law

Studios Guy. 13 Examples of Kinetic Energy in Everyday Life
https://studiousguy.com/examples-of-kinetic-energy-in-everyday-life/

Cafasso, J. 2018. Adrenaline Rush: Everything You Should Know
https://www.healthline.com/health/adrenaline-rush

Console, R. 2020. The 8 Most Common Car Accident Injuries and What to Do About Them
https://www.natlawreview.com/article/8-most-common-car-accident-injuries-and-what-to-do-about-them

Dimovski, A. 2021. Car Accident Statistics in the U.S. – 2020 Update
https://carsurance.net/blog/car-accident-statistics/

Dr. Matt le Roux is a man of many talents: chiropractor, sports scientist and functional medicine practitioner. His science-based approach motivates him to explore the synergy between health and performance that changes the way you move, live, train, think, and eat.

Dr Matt le Roux

Chiropractor, Functional medicine practitioner

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