Car accidents can happen at any time, involving even the most careful driver.  Every time a driver gets behind the wheel, the possibility of being in a serious vehicle accident is always there.  Every year, approximately 3 million people in the U.S. alone will be injured in a car accident.  Fatalities occur in 6% of vehicular accidents, while personal injury statistics are much higher, at 27%.  A wide range of injuries can occur, ranging from internal organ injuries to musculoskeletal injuries, concussions, and more.  It is not uncommon for a series of physical therapy treatments to be included in an individual’s recovery plan.  In this post, we will highlight some of the more common injuries found when a vehicle accident occurs and how physical therapy can help on the road back to recovery.

Common Injuries

Individuals recovering from a car accident may have a host of physical issues, but there are some common injuries seen in these types of incidents.  The flexible (cervical) spinal area is particularly susceptible to injury from moving vehicles.  An injury to one or both knees is also fairly common since the knee area is directly behind vehicle dashboards.  An injury to the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) found deep within the knee is found so often in car accident victims, it is referred to as “the dashboard injury”.  Extremities such as arms and legs are particularly vulnerable as well.  It is not uncommon to see shoulder and wrist injuries, as well as problems with the hip and lower back areas.

 

Types of Injuries

Although airbags can help, it is still not uncommon for individuals to receive a concussion due to receiving a blow to the head from the force of flying objects inside a vehicle.  Especially with rear-end collisions, whiplash injuries to the neck and shoulder areas are quite common.  Broken bones, strains, sprains, fractures and bruising are all frequently seen in individuals who have been involved in a crash.

 

Diagnosis of Injuries

An emergency room physician has a wide range of medical tests and tools available to them to help diagnose the exact nature of a patient’s range of injuries.  Common tests include X-rays and CT scans if the physician suspects a patient has suffered from broken bone(s).  Physicians will also often use an MRI test to discern the extent of injury to soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons and the spinal cord.

 

Patient Recovery

Every patient’s road to recovery is unique and depends upon the extent of their injuries.  Some patients will require surgery to undergo organ repair or to set broken bones.  Some injuries will require patients to go through a period of immobilization in order to help injured areas heal.  Patients almost always require medication to help treat symptoms such as neck pain, headaches and back pain that are commonly found in accident victims.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is commonly prescribed after a crash to help with issues such as headaches, whiplash, body aches and pains, and to help regain the proper range of motion and strength in injured areas.  Especially for serious accidents, it is not uncommon for physical therapists to work with patients for months to help them regain as much of their former abilities as possible. The length of recovery varies from patient to patient, however, professional physical therapists are often a key factor in helping a patient regain much, if not all, of their former physical abilities.

 

Summary

There are some preventative measures that can help minimize the likelihood of becoming injured in a vehicle accident.  Wearing a seat belt does save lives.  Practicing safe driving habits such as paying attention to one’s surroundings while driving, driving only when sober and alert, as well as avoiding bad driving practices such as tailgating or trying to run through a yellow light, can mean the difference between coming home safely or getting seriously injured.

If you or someone you know is suffering from injuries received in a vehicle accident, we can help!  Please call us at 570-208-2787 or email: cawleyptfrank@gmail.com to schedule a consultation.

Article written by Dr. Timothy Dymond

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