Injuries resulting from car accidents can be as unique and wide-ranging as the types of crashes that cause them. Your position in the car, how you are hit, whether you are wearing your seat belt (we sincerely hope that you always are!) all contribute to how your body reacts to the force of a collision. But even in accidents that seem minor, injuries can be common. Being treated by an auto injury doctor after an accident is important to get injuries treated quickly and properly. Keep a close eye on your body and mind over the weeks following, because some symptoms are not immediately apparent.
Whiplash is one of the most common car-accident injuries. It happens when the car stops or turns suddenly, causing the neck to “whip” back and forth rapidly, and causes pain and injury to the muscles and tendons in your neck. Look for symptoms like neck pain and stiffness, loss of range of motion or worsening of pain with movement. Some cases of whiplash heal over time, but others can be more severe. A trained physician can help you determine whether you need additional care.
Concussion can also result from your head being thrown back and forth. It’s a serious injury that can occur even if your head doesn’t make physical contact with anything. You may see signs right away, such as headache, head pressure, temporary loss of consciousness, seeing “stars,” dizziness, or ringing of the ears, but it may take a few hours for symptoms to appear. Concussions can be significant, so if you’re having difficulty with concentration, memory, or focus, see a doctor for a neurological evaluation.
In a car accident, broken bones are caused by the blunt force of the crash or compression. Any bone can break in an accident, but the most common are the extremities: hands, arms, feet, and legs. Especially in a rear-end accident, the force of the impact can cause the bones in a driver’s arms, wrists, or hands to break because of their position on the steering wheel. Signs include swelling, redness, bruising, deformity, loss of function and severe pain. Depending on the severity and location of the break, your doctor will help you determine the best course of treatment.
While whiplash affects the neck and shoulders, musculoskeletal injuries can happen to muscles, ligaments, tendons or nerves anywhere in your body that were stretched, compressed or bent during an accident. Depending on the severity, they can be just as painful as a broken bone and can limit your ability to perform simple tasks. Symptoms such as pain that worsens with activity, inflammation, redness and swelling could point to a soft-tissue injury. Work with an experienced physician to avoid long-term damage.
Physical injuries can be immediately obvious, but emotional injuries that stem from a car accident are just as important and deserve the same professional treatment. There are some common emotional reactions to an accident caused by the release, and subsequent withdrawal, of adrenaline, such as anxiety or depression, but they should disappear within a short time. If you’re still feeling anxious, experiencing the accident over and over, or avoiding the area where the crash happened after a few weeks, you should contact a doctor that specializes in car accident injuries and trauma.