Motor vehicle accidents (cars, motorcycles, scooters) are very common – nearly 10% of injury visits to the ER each year are because of car accidents. Wrecks can result in a wide variety of injuries ranging from scrapes to severe head injuries. Sometimes these injuries are immediately evident, and sometimes they take hours or days for the body to calm enough for injuries to become evident.
What are the most common injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents?
- Whiplash and other neck & back injuries: Whiplash is an injury to the tissue in the neck caused by the force of sudden acceleration and deceleration. Whiplash can result in muscle spasms, pain in the neck, back, arms, and shoulders, headaches, a stiff neck, and loss of range of motion. In addition to whiplash, spinal cord injury is also possible. Pay attention for mobility issues, changes to any sensations, pain in the spine or nerve pain, and any difficulty with breathing or coughing.
- Sprains and strains: Also caused by the sudden impact force, sprains and strains can often be treated at home. However, because the symptoms of severe sprains or strains can be similar to those of a fracture, it is good to get imaging done to rule out a break.
- Head injury: Concussions, traumatic brain injury (TBI), skull fractures, cuts & lacerations on the head & face, and internal bleeding are all possible injuries after a wreck. Because all the symptoms of these injuries are not immediately apparent, if you hit your head during an accident, you should seek medical care to rule out any injuries like internal bleeding or a skull fracture.
- Broken bones: It is common to suffer from broken ribs, legs, or arms due to a car wreck. These injuries should be treated immediately.
- Internal bleeding: Internal bleeding can occur in any part of the body, but is particularly harmful in the brain or other organs. Because internal bleeding often doesn’t show any external symptoms, it is not easy to rule out without medical attention.
Should I go to the ER?
Because not all of the injuries from a motor vehicle accident are immediately evident, it is advised to get medical attention. Aside from minor scrapes, scratches, and cuts, most other injuries have the potential to be serious or life-threatening. If the wreck was minor (a fender-bender or other small impact), and no injury was sustained, then medical attention is likely not necessary. But anything involving head injury, swelling, pain, heavy bleeding, mobility issues, severe headache, or any unexplained symptoms, seek emergency medical care.
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