More than 2.5 million people are injured in car accidents each year in the United States, which leads to a million days in the hospital. And these statistics only scratch the surface of the toll that car accidents exact on our population.
At Watson Chiropractic, we specialize in helping our patients deal with the aftermath of a car accident, helping them avoid serious and long-term health repercussions.
If you’ve ever wondered why certain parts of your body are more prone to injury in a car accident, there are several factors involved. Here’s a look at the most common.
The anatomy of an accident
With any car accident, the laws of physics come into play as massive amounts of kinetic (moving) energy need to be absorbed and dissipated. If you think of one object hurtling toward another, your brakes are the first line of defense in diffusing this energy. But you rarely have the luxury of applying your brakes in a car accident, which means that your car, and everything in it, is next in line.
At slower speeds, modern cars are built to absorb much of the energy, which is why you hear car companies tout the latest structural components that can withstand (i.e. absorb) the energy of a collision. But the higher the speed, the more energy that needs to be released at the time of the impact, and your body may be in the line of fire.
If you add an impact with another moving vehicle, there’s twice as much kinetic energy that needs to find an outlet.
So now that you understand that your body can be a conduit for this energy, let’s take a look at why some areas are more vulnerable than others.
Some of the most common injuries in a car accident stem from your seatbelt. While this may seem counterintuitive to a seatbelt’s primary purpose, the alternative would be much worse. Your seatbelt and your seat hold onto the strongest parts of your body — your pelvis, your chest, and your back — helping these areas absorb and disperse the energy of an impact.
In doing this, though, you may sacrifice your collarbone in the effort, and sometimes your ribs, as they come up against your seatbelt.
And while your seat may do a great job of cradling your body, high-speed accidents can still have an effect on your spine as it loads and releases the force of the impact with your seat during the collision. This can lead to moderate to severe spinal injuries.
Outside of the restraints
One of the areas that isn’t well restrained in a car is your neck, which is why whiplash tops the list of accident-related injuries. In an accident, your head whips forward and back at incredible speeds as it gathers and releases energy, which can wreak havoc on your cervical spine.
In addition to the damage to your cervical spine, concussions and head traumas are commonplace in car accidents as your head is flung around, allowing your brain to come up against the walls of your skull.
Your arms are also in peril during a car accident since they’re outside your restraints and more vulnerable, which can lead to serious fractures.
A question of direction
Injuries in car accidents often depend upon the point of impact. The best safety features in your car are designed for front and rear collisions. Think about the amount of car between you and the impact, as well as the airbag and seatbelt. That said, knee injuries are fairly common in head-on collisions if there’s severe damage to the front end of your car.
Unfortunately, if you’re struck from the side, there’s very little to absorb the impact, which can often lead to more severe injuries.
The bottom line is that any accident in your car can lead to injury, from a mild scrape to more serious musculoskeletal problems. If your injury involves your musculoskeletal system, we’re here to help at Watson Chiropractic. Just give us a call or use the online booking tool to set up an appointment at one of our three locations.