It’s not something any of us choose to dwell on (as if we did, we’d probably be too scared to embark on any car journey), however as car owners every time we climb into our vehicles, put our seatbelts on, turn the ignition key and perform the all-important mirror, signal, manoeuvre, as realists there’s an outside chance that we might, unwittingly become involved in an accident of one description or another once we get out on the open road. After all, statistically, there’s a greater likelihood of getting caught up in a road accident than there is being hit by an asteroid, while there’s also a higher percentage chance of succumbing to a car-based injury than there is of prematurely dying as a direct result of a lawnmower incident or indeed, falling foul of an untimely demise triggered by constipation.
As it is we’re not referring to fatalities in this instance, instead turning our attentions to the predominant injuries which can occur from being involved in a car accident; and subsequently, just what treatment options there are available to those who do experience either physical or psychological injuries during, or in the immediate aftermath. Based on the severity of the initial impact experienced by the human body, together with the general circumstances in which the crash takes place, the types of physical and the more emotional injuries sustained during a vehicle accident are somewhat diverse, and can typically range from head (and therein, brain), neck and back injuries to those centred on internal and psychological.
Arguably one of the most reported injuries which can result from a vehicle accident is the well-documented whiplash, which essentially affects the neck of those susceptible at the time of impact. Elsewhere more superficial injuries figure prominently in many car crashes, with broken windscreen glass and the torn metal of the bodywork contributing to this. In terms of the areas of the torso which tend to suffer in the unfortunate event of a car accident, it’s the head, neck, chest, legs and feet which bear the brunt of impacts, historically. Meanwhile broken bones and concussion are another two very physical implications of being in an accident involving a motor vehicle, again largely depending on the individual scenario at the time.
Addressing some of the most recurrent injuries relating to car accidents, and the following habitually comprise 8 of those types most acknowledged, and are found in no particular semblance of order beneath.
- Injuries Affecting head and/or Brain
Amongst the most prevalent of car accident injuries are those which affect a driver or passenger’s head, and which of course could be debilitating and in some cases lead to resultant brain trauma. If and when our heads are subjected to sudden and violent impacts with another object, the brain can be jolted inside the cranium which otherwise serves to protect it, and on occasions such potentially damaging passages of play might not even be witnessed, or indeed recognised at the time and place. Initial symptoms are often mild, with no visible signs to the exterior (i.e, cuts or bruises) which belie the knock-on effect beneath the surface of the skull; which due to force of impact could cause internal bruising, bleeds and/or swelling of the brain. In a broader sense, symptoms of head/brain trauma can be noted as mild, moderate or severe, with treatment options including MRI’s and CT scans, a course of targeted medication, possible surgery and aftercare which might focus on a tailored rehabilitation programme; all determined by the extent of the specific injury and the prognosis.
- Injuries Affecting the Neck
As we mentioned earlier, one of the most published and widely-discussed physical extents of car crashes with direct reference to injuries sustained by drivers or passengers, is whiplash. Along with more general neck strain, whiplash doesn’t have a habit of leaving a legacy for the most part, and in many situations the pain and discomfort associated with it will subside and eventually disappear entirely of its own accord and in the necessary fullness of time. Mobility is the key according to health experts, who suggest that those who suffer whiplash injuries should maintain a certain degree of movement and not, although seeming the right thing to do, rest the neck for long periods, as this in itself could perpetuate both the underlying issues and the natural recovery process. Physiotherapy is usually recommended should the otherwise transient nature of the neck injury not rectify itself within a certain timescale deemed appropriate by specialists in this particular field, and there will be episodes whereby the severity of the whiplash/neck strain can culminate in injuries of a more impacting diagnosis (think possible dislocation within the cervical area and/or disc incapacity, which GPs will monitor from the outset.
- Injuries Affecting the Spinal Chord
One of the most precious parts of the human anatomy is the spinal cord, without fluid motion of which would instantly hamper and seriously restrict over every natural and free movement. Yet spinal cord injuries are, tragically for those affected, relatively commonplace when it comes to injuries which are caused by car accidents. As we’ve already implied, the prospect of this type of injury befalling a victim of a vehicle accident hinges almost entirely on the incident itself; taking into account the level of impact, the speed of impact and how the body reacted to the trauma at the scene. Effectively once bone fragments displace (or disc matter and/or ligaments suffer contusions or tearing into proximate spinal cord tissue) then damage occurs to the spinal cord and its ability to perform as normal. Axons can be destroyed, which as a crucial element of our nerve cells are tasked with emitting and conveying critical signals from the brain to the entire human body, via the length of the spinal cord itself; thus resulting in a partial or full loss of both feeling and function. Rehabilitation is key here, with specific exercises and possible therapy serving to get victims back on their feet at some point in the future, if and where physically possible.
- Injuries Affecting the Back
Although not as far-reaching as spinal cord injuries, it’s fair to say that a number of back injuries can make life very uncomfortable for those who suffer from then, in the aftermath of a road traffic accident. In tandem with the physical pain closely associated with the sort of back injury seen in car accidents, the individual’s mobility can be significantly compromised too; should they suffer various strains and sprains in situ. More lifestyle-altering realisations include fractures to the vertebrae and/or discs which have become herniated, which also might manifest at a later date, having not presented in the hours and days after the impact. What’s more, some back injuries which develop post-crash can endure and ultimately cause pain which has a habit of panning out over the longer term. Looking at the rehabilitation process, and treatment options for those recovering from back injuries traditionally incorporate a collection of tailored exercises which target the problem areas over a period of time.
- Injuries Affecting the Face
When you think about it for a minute, it’s not difficult to understand how the tell-tale physical signs of car crashes nearly always amount to facial injuries. Not when you consider just how many possible objects the driver’s face could come to blows with at force. For example there’s the steering wheel itself, as well as various aspects of the dashboard, airbag, windscreen (or other functioning windows in the vehicle), shattered glass and even the car seats themselves. And despite sometimes escaping with flesh wounds which look worse than they actually are (surface cuts, bruises, etc), drivers and passengers aren’t always so lucky and can experience a raft of serious fractures and more telling lacerations, and sometimes even longer-term physical issues which can affect a person’s jaw and in some environs pre-empt marked dental issues. A & E departments are equipped to deal with a catalogue of facial injuries and should always be the first port of call after finding yourself susceptible to those indicative of surviving a car accident.
- Injuries of an Internal Nature
Whilst the old adage might concur ‘what you can’t see, can’t hurt you’, the opposite is pretty much true when you’re talking about the kind of unseen injuries you might collate if you’re implicated in a road traffic accident. A whole host of injuries which have an adverse effect on a number of vital organs such as the kidneys, lungs, spleen, liver, bowels and heart, could present behind the scenes if you’re not careful, or rather closely monitored thereafter. In addition to these, fractured ribs aren’t exactly unheard of, post-car accident, which in turn can lead to lung puncturing amongst other series damage to otherwise impregnable organs which lie protected internally. To press home the underlying issues, professional medical help should be sought rapidly if/when it’s believed that internal injuries have occurred, as it could materialise that present life-altering characteristics. Ideally specialists will set about delivering the best course of healthcare options and planning convalescence and possible rehabilitation thereafter.
- Injuries of a Psychological Nature
Keeping tabs on our mental health can never be overestimated and is imperative, and thankfully in the current climate, it’s finally seen as a good thing to openly talk about what things are affecting us, and how they are affecting our daily life and times. And whilst a large number of car accidents flag up obvious physical attributes as a result, the same can’t also be said about short or long-term psychological damage. From persistent anxiety and bouts of depression through to post-traumatic distress and persistent emotional distress, the mental health of people involved in car accidents often remains out of sight, although far from being out of mind for those directly affected. Psychological injuries can negatively affect every part of an individual sufferer’s life and go on to have long-lasting effects if not recognised, made fully aware of and tackled as those close become privy to the first signs. Speaking with trained counsellors and therapists are the main treatment options made available to those who admit to suffering psychological injuries after a car accident.
When the brain is shaken severely inside the skull, concussion normally follows; and in the context of a car accident there’s a high probability that the driver or passenger’s head might come into abrupt contact with the window or steering wheel in the event of a serious collision, especially if airbags aren’t present. Rest is prescribed for milder contusions as such, so as to afford the brain time to heal of bruising, however more serious episodes as often experienced in car crashes tend to necessitate hospitalization; especially should the victim start vomiting and/or complain of severe nausea, headaches and disorientation. In the most extreme instances, surgery may be required to alleviate bleeding or pressure on the brain.