Serious Injuries Can Occur in Low-Speed Car Accidents

The Importance of Seeking Medical Attention After a Motor Vehicle Collision

When you get in a fender-bender—or even slam on the brakes without making impact—it’s just a minor bump, right? You can’t suffer any serious injuries, can you? Think again.

It’s generally true that the severity of injuries in a car wreck increases when the vehicle is traveling at a higher speed at the time of impact. But a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that even small increases in speed can produce dramatically different results, particularly when a motorist collides with a pedestrian. Another study, conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, found that drivers and passengers are still at significant risk of whiplash even when traveling between five and ten miles per hour at the time of the crash. Researchers say that, regardless of vehicle speed at the time of impact, there’s still a significant amount of force caused by two colliding automobiles, and much of that force is absorbed by passengers in the vehicles. Furthermore, data indicates that in rear-end crashes, the most common source of whiplash injuries, the force from the other vehicle can actually increase in magnitude by the time it reaches the front seat of the car.

Whiplash occurs when your head suddenly and violently snaps back and forth, straining or tearing connective tissue, such as ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Upon impact, the torso is thrown forward, with the head lagging just behind. When the torso returns to its original position, the head then jerks forward, leading to hyperextension of the neck and the connective tissue in the upper back and shoulders. Like a rubber band, the neck then snaps backward, leading to hyperextension in the other direction.

Don’t be surprised, though, if you seem fine immediately after a minor collision, only to experience excruciating pain a day or two later. Many of the symptoms of whiplash can take up to 24 hours to manifest. Even with low-speed collisions, you can have micro-tears in muscle, ligament, or tendon fibers that can take hours to become inflamed. Once the inflammation sets in, it typically impinges on nerves and nerve endings, causing discomfort.

The Most Common Back Injuries Caused by Motor Vehicle Accidents

Understanding the Typical Back Trauma Suffered in a Car Crash

The Most Common Back Injuries Caused by Motor Vehicle AccidentsAccording to data collected by the Mayo Clinic, about four of every ten spinal cord injuries suffered by Americans every year are caused by motor vehicle accidents. Back injuries are one of the most common consequences of a collision and can be extremely debilitating, even when impact was at a relatively low speed. Furthermore, many back injuries are internal in nature, making them difficult to observe initially. Here are the most common types of back injuries suffered in car, truck, and motorcycle accidents:

  • Whiplash—Though whiplash involves the snapping of the head and neck, it almost always causes pain, discomfort, and trauma to your back. After all, theneck and back work in tandem. When your head ricochets back and forth, it stretches muscles in your back and can have an impact on your upper spine, vertebrae, and discs. While whiplash can take hours or days to fully manifest, it typically includes persistent pain, dizziness, stiffness, and/or fatigue.
  • Soft tissue injury—Virtually any level of impact can cause trauma to muscles, tendons, and ligaments in and around your back. Symptoms of soft-tissue injury include stiffness, headache, muscle tenderness, nausea, vertigo, tingling, and numbness.
  • Herniated disc—The vertebrae in your spinal column are separated and cushioned by discs that absorb shock and protect sensitive nerve endings. The blunt force of a motor vehicle accident can cause a disc to slip, bulge, or rupture, leading to friction between vertebrae and/or impingement of nerves. Some of the indications of a herniated disc include pain that extends to your legs or arms, pain that gets worse when you stand or sit, pain that increases at night, or unexplained muscle weakness.
  • Spinal cord injury—Though your spinal cord is an amazing and resilient body part, even a minor accident can lead to bruising or swelling, and a serious crash can cause spinal fractures or severing of the spinal cord. The most common type of spinal fracture is a compression fracture, where the impact of a crash causes cracks in or along your vertebrae. One of the first symptoms of a compression fracture is localized pain at or near one of your vertebrae. Typically, the pain will increase with any type of movement. A compression fracture, however, can have more serious consequences, including bladder issues, loss of muscle tone, numbness, and loss of sensation. The severing of the spinal cord generally results in some level of paralysis.