Auto accidents cause most of the worst injuries I see in my practice. The reason for this is the high speeds of impact that many an auto accident occur at. Many times a patient will come into my office with pain after an accident and will say, “I don’t know why I hurt so bad. I was only going 15 mph!” The funny thing is, even at 15 mph, you are moving at a speed higher than most humans can sprint, so imagine sprinting into a brick wall… now it may be easier to understand why you’re hurting.
Studies have shown that the speed of an accident is not a measure of whether you are injured or not, but to what extent the injury occurs. Typically, higher speeds cause more damage to the body, but I have seen people injured in parking lot accidents. Conversely, I have also seen people walk away from 50 mph crashes without any or a minor injury.
There are certainly other factors to consider when assessing the extent of injury. Two of these factors are: Direction of impact and body position. If someone is rear-ended, that accident will typically produce the worst injuries. Being hit from the side usually is next and from the front is the least. Now, ad a rotated head to any of the above scenarios, and you’ve just increased the risk of greater damage. Then, of course, if you increase the speed, more injury is likely.
Whiplash is the name for any car accident injury that causes a person to sharply be thrown in one direction and then rebound with another, thus causing two injuries in one accident. This is a phenomenon that is largely unique to car accidents.
The bottom line: Get checked after a car crash to determine if you need care. Some injuries seem mild, but there are some injuries to ligament, joint capsule, or discs that may never repair on their own.