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The stress and adrenaline of a crash can often mask pain, resulting in hidden injuries after a car accident. The full extent of these injuries are often underestimated, as the full extent of symptoms can appear gradually over the following hours and days.
This article provides an overview of typical car accident injuries and their symptoms, aiming to help you safeguard against worsening injuries.
Recognizing the prevalence of these hidden injuries is not just essential for your safety; it’s a crucial step toward receiving timely medical attention.
Common Brain Injuries From Car Accidents
A concussion is a mild but prevalent form of TBI that occurs when the brain is forcefully shaken in the skull due to the sudden and forceful movements experienced during a collision. Although not always immediately evident, concussions from car accidents can have serious consequences if left undiagnosed.
Symptoms may include headache, confusion, dizziness, memory problems, nausea, sensitivity to light or sound, and mood changes. These symptoms may appear mild initially, but can worsen over time. Therefore, it’s important to seek medical evaluation as soon as these symptoms appear.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Common Back Injuries From Car Accidents
Herniated disks, also known as slipped or ruptured discs, is a common back injuries from car accidents. The discs in our spine act as the cushions between the spine’s vertebrae, helping provide us with flexibility and shock absorption.
When the soft inner material of the disk protrudes through to the tougher outer layer, they herniate, putting pressure on nearby nerves. Car accidents can cause the spine to twist and flex in ways that put excessive pressure on the discs in the neck or lower back.
Symptoms of a herniated disk can include pain, numbness, and weakness of the affected area as well as radiating pain down the arms and legs.
The pain can range from mild discomfort to severe, debilitating pain that interferes with daily activities. Recognizing these symptoms is key, as early diagnosis and treatment can help alleviate pain and prevent further complications.
Spinal Cord Injuries
- Anterior Cord Syndrome: This injury results from damage to the front of the spinal cord. It can lead to a loss of pain and temperature sensation.
- Posterior Cord Syndrome: This injury results from damage to the back of the spinal cord. It can lead to a loss of the body’s ability to sense its relative position and movement.
- Conus Medullaris Syndrome: This injury affects the legs and lower abdomen due to damage to the lower end of the spinal cord. It results in compromised motor and sensory functioning as well as difficulties controlling the bowel and bladder.
Common External Injuries From Car Accidents
Lacerations and Abrasions
Lacerations, abrasions, and bruises are some of common visible wounds that can result from a car accident. Lacerations can range from minor cuts or gashes to deep wounds that require medical attention. Abrasions, or “road rash” occurs when friction occurs between the skin and a rough surface.
After a car accident, it is important to conduct a visual scan of yourself and of any passengers for external injuries. That way you can quickly make note of any external injuries that you may have been unaware of otherwise.
Other Common Hidden Injuries from Car Accidents
Soft Tissue Injuries
Whiplash is one of the most common car accident injuries and can occur at speeds as low as 5-10 mph. After a sudden stop or crash, the head and neck are suddenly forced back and forth, causing damage to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the neck.
Mild cases of whiplash include mild neck pain, headaches, and discomfort. However, more severe symptoms like blurred vision, dizziness, muscle weakness, spasms, and concentration problems can present themselves days after the incident. Since symptoms rarely manifest at their full extent immediately following a crash, whiplash is an especially prevalent hidden injury after a car accident.
Common Psychological Effects From Car Accidents
Post-traumatic stress disorder, otherwise known as PTSD, is a mental health condition that can develop in response to a traumatic event. Individuals dealing with PTSD from a car accident can deal with a range of emotional and psychological symptoms that may affect their daily life as well as their overall quality of life.
PTSD symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, depression, emotional numbness, irritability, and hyper-vigilance. These symptoms can manifest in various ways, with common triggers including the sight, sounds, or smells associated with the accident. Further, many individuals with PTSD may also struggle with sleep disturbances, affecting their overall well-being.