5 Serious Injuries After a Car Wreck
Staying safe on the road isn’t always easy, especially when everything from the weather to other drivers interferes with your concentration. Still, playing defense when it comes to driving will go a long way toward preventing serious injuries. Automobile fatalities are on the rise. During the first nine months of 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) projected that nearly 28,000 people would die as a result of a car crash, up 8 percent over the same period in 2015. Aside from fatalities, car wrecks can wreck your life in other ways. Just how bad can a car wreck hurt? Here are five of the worst injuries associated with motor vehicle collisions.
Concussions don’t just happen spontaneously. They’re caused by blunt-force trauma to the head or anything that causes your brain to rattle against your skull. Any high-speed collision or impact can cause a concussion, which is why many athletes suffer from the condition. Not all concussions are life-threatening, but some can be. Symptoms include dizziness, nausea, changes in mood or behavior, and vision disturbances. What makes a concussion so serious is the fact that people tend to pass off head injuries that aren’t visible. You may not realize you’ve got a concussion until the symptoms get out of control.
Concussions aren’t the only type of head injury that can cause serious problems. If you hit your head during a collision – or the car shakes violently while you’re inside – get checked out just to be safe. Your doctor can also tell you what to look out for if symptoms appear later.
#2 Soft Tissue Damage
Soft-tissue damage covers a broad range of problems, but typical injuries include sprains, torn ligaments, muscle damage, and bruising. You may not think that something like a bruise could be much cause for concern, but soft-tissue damage takes a long time to heal. If you have a job where you’re on your feet a lot, spraining your ankle or pulling tendons in your legs could prevent you from working. Muscle spasms, particularly those in your back, can also sideline you from everyday life. There’s a simple treatment for many soft-tissue injuries:
- Rest: Take a break from activities that exacerbate pain.
- Ice: For the first 48 to 72 hours after an injury, apply ice in 20-minute increments a few times a day. You can switch to heat for comfort after the first few days, but don’t apply either ice or heat to your skin directly.
- Compression: Wrap the injured area in a compression bandage, but don’t wrap it too tight.
- Elevation: When you’re applying ice or resting, keep the injured area elevated above your heart if feasible.
This 4-step process is called the “RICE” method, and it’s typically best for limb-based injuries, like a sprained ankle. But not all soft-tissue problems respond to the RICE method. If you’re not feeling better after 2 to 3 days, you’ll need to call a doctor to make sure there isn’t an underlying problem. Untreated soft-tissue damage can escalate into worse problems down the road.
#3 Back and Neck Problems
Back and neck injuries are among the most commonly reported types of injuries following a car wreck. You’ve probably heard about whiplash. It’s not just a gimmick for sitcoms. Whiplash happens when there’s sudden damage to your neck muscles or ligaments. Achy muscles and swelling are typical traits of whiplash, but serious problems can occur if the issue isn’t treated right away. Back and neck problems can also linger for years, and in some cases, become chronic problems that interfere with your life – and your wallet. Between ongoing doctor’s visits and surgeries to correct increasingly painful conditions – like herniated discs, sciatica or spasms – you could spend a fortune fixing what starts out as a “simple” backache due to a car crash.
#4 Internal or Unseen Injuries
When you get in a car wreck, your first instinct will be to check to see if you and your passengers are okay. An absence of physical symptoms, like broken bones or scratches, might lure you into a false sense of security that everything’s all right. But there are a host of injuries that you can’t see with the naked eye, like internal bleeding or the development of blood clots. Internal bleeding happens routinely in some cases, like when a woman experiences a ruptured ovarian cyst during the course of a normal menstrual cycle, but it can also happen dramatically and unexpectedly where it shouldn’t – as in the case of head or abdominal injuries. Signs of internal bleeding vary significantly. You might feel nothing at all or extreme pain. You might even be unconscious, unable to tell anyone about the problem.
Blood clots, which can happen with sudden impact injuries in some people, aren’t necessarily harmful if treated right away, but over time, untreated blood clots can turn into serious problems. For instance, deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) can evolve into a pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal. Don’t play a guessing game if you’re in a car crash, especially if the wreck happened at high speeds or you lost consciousness for any amount of time. Let a doctor rule out something serious before you assume everything’s okay.
#5 Emotional and Psychological Harm
A fender-bender is unlikely to leave any physical or emotional damage in its wake, but serious car crashes involving property damage and personal injuries can have a psychological toll on those involved. Drivers and their passengers might suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a serious psychological disorder that can take years to treat. You may also experience guilt, depression, anger, and other negative emotions and conditions if you’re involved in a car wreck, which can interfere with your ability to drive and affect your – and your family’s – quality of life. Physical injuries can be easier to treat than emotional ones because some people with mental or emotional scarring don’t seek help right away, if at all.
This list doesn’t touch on the more gruesome or disturbing injuries that can happen when you’re involved in a wreck, like internal decapitation or permanent paralysis. Instead, it covers more likely injuries that can have a devastating impact on your quality of life, personal relationships and finances. In the U.S., nearly 1.3 million car crashes were reported by police in 2015, and over 2.4 million people were injured because of them. When you’re on the road, be proactive in how you address safety. Wear your seatbelt, put down your cell phone and keep distractions like the radio to a minimum. You can’t always avoid injuries, but you can take a defensive approach while you’re behind the wheel to minimize long-term damage.