Can a Low-Impact Accident Cause Serious Injuries?
A woman, who is calling 1-800-411-Pain after a car accident.

Can a Low-Impact Accident Cause Serious Injuries?

pathmedical Chiropractic Care

Let’s be serious for a second, any car accident can be frightening and come as a shock for you and your body, even minor accidents with insignificant property damage. A minor accident can still have enough force to inflict serious harm to you and everyone in the car. In every car accident, three collisions happen – the vehicular collision, the human collision, and the internal collision. The human collision refers to the occupant’s body connecting with objects inside the vehicle. The internal collision is the organs impacting other organs or the skeletal frame.

A low-impact crash can still impart enough kinetic force into vehicle occupants to cause significant human and internal collisions. The occupants will decelerate slower than the vehicle, throwing their bodies in the direction of the impact, leading to them absorbing most of the force of the impact. This can cause injuries such as blunt force trauma, bruises, contusions, concussions, and lacerations. If a low-impact crash is enough to whip the victim’s upper body forward and/or backward, he or she could also suffer serious neck and back injuries.

The spine is a sensitive part of the body that is prone to serious injuries in auto accidents. One of the most common and potentially serious low-impact crash injuries is whiplash. Whiplash is the straining or injuring of the tendons and ligaments of the neck. The soft tissues of the neck often cannot withstand the forces of a low-impact accident. Whiplash generally occurs when the head and neck rapidly move in one direction then snap back due to the impact of a collision. Rear-end car accidents most commonly produce impact forces that injure the occupant’s neck. These are potentially serious injuries that could cause chronic pain and long-term disabilities.

The way a person is positioned in the vehicle is also important and could be the reason for an injury. These can include:

• A turned head at the moment of impact
• Head not aligned properly with the headrest
• Lower back not pressed against the seat’s lumbar support

Although these are just a few of the factors that can lead to injury during a crash, they can play a major role in the injuries sustained.

Another factor to consider when determining the extent of an injury after an accident is the angle of the vehicle when it was struck. If the car is struck more from the side rather than straight forward or backward, the occupant’s spines can be subjected to rotational forces which can increase the risk of injury. If an occupant is leaning forward or turned in the seat in some way, they are also more likely to suffer spinal injuries, even if the accident appears minor.

Research shows that approximately 10% of occupants of a vehicle that is rear-ended will develop whiplash syndrome and another ten to 15% will suffer from cervical soft tissue injures. Whiplash can persist for years even though evidence may not appear on x-rays or other tests. Currently, there are not definitive medical tests to identify deranged soft tissues. Impacts at as slow as five miles per hour have caused serious injuries to occupants. According to one report, slow or moderate collisions cause the maximum hyperextension of the neck and spine. In high speed collisions, the seat back is often broken, which actually minimizes the force of hyperextension.

It is not uncommon for the occupant of a vehicle that is struck at low-speeds to not immediately realize they have been injured. Symptoms can be delayed as much as 24 to 72 hours after an accident. However, some patients may notice a slight stiffening of the neck or minor pain in the back immediately. In many cases, they may brush off the pain as typical after an accident. Research shows that patients who feel pain in the neck and back immediately after a crash, even if the pain is minor, are more likely to suffer chronic pain as a result. Doctors say that immediate pain may indicate a more significant injury which can lead to chronic problems in the future. Anyone involved in a crash that loses any range of motion in their neck or back after impact should be seen by medical professionals immediately.

Despite the belief of many that severe injuries cannot occur during low-speed collisions, research has shown otherwise. In addition, whiplash and other back injuries are common, especially in rear-end low-speed collisions.

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SOURCES
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9868635/
https://journals.lww.com/spinejournal/fulltext/2018/09150/a_comprehensive_review_of_low_speed_rear_impact.8.aspx
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/