Rear-end accidents can cause injuries that can last a lifetime. The brute force of a rear-end crash can fracture bones, herniate or rupture spinal discs, strain back muscles, and aggravate pre-existing conditions.
Even rear-end crashes at low speeds jar the body with sudden, violent movement. That jerking motion can damage spinal nerves and herniated discs and cause severe back pain, numbness, and paralysis.
The most frequent neck injury in rear-end auto collisions is whiplash. This sudden and forceful back-and-forth movement of the head and neck strains, rips, and tears the web of the cervical spine’s ligaments, tendons, vertebrae, and muscles.
Occupant kinematics explain how whiplash can occur in rear-end collisions. The occupant’s body compresses into the seatback. It is then accelerated forward, but their head rebounds off the headrest to stop the acceleration, causing their neck to snap forcibly backward, then forward again.
The whiplash motion can also tear and damage the underlying structures in the neck, leading to symptoms such as neck pain, headaches, and cognitive problems. Whiplash symptoms often last a few days to weeks, but some people experience chronic neck pain and headaches months or even years after their accident.
Spinal fractures can occur in the lumbar or thoracic spine (mid or lower back). Five to ten percent of spinal fractures are unstable. Unstable fractures move the vertebrae from their normal alignment and can pressure the spinal nerves or spinal cord.
If you have a spine injury, it is essential to see a doctor. You may need surgery to stabilize the bones and prevent complications. The procedure to do so can include kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty, both minimally invasive procedures that involve injecting bone cement into the fractured spine.
Sometimes, a balloon lifts the compressed spinal vertebra before the cement injection. This allows for more accurate injection of bone cement and better healing of the fractured spine.
Discs are located between the spine’s bones to help keep it flexible and absorb shock. Rapid force can cause one of these soft cushions to slip out of place when involved in a rear-end accident. When this happens, it puts pressure on nerves and causes pain.
This type of injury is sometimes difficult to diagnose. The first stage is typically a physical examination and a review of medical data. Doctors may also perform EMG/NCV tests to assess the progress of the nerve or muscle damage over time.
Treatment for herniated discs often involves physical therapy, painkillers, and rest. In severe cases, surgery may be required. An injured victim’s PIP or uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) policy may cover the cost of treatment and related damages up to the policy limits.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Your brain and the rest of your body are connected via the spinal cord, a substantial bundle of nerves. When injured, it can cause permanent loss of movement and sensation. Injuries to the spine can also lead to several other issues, such as blood clots, pressure sores, involuntary muscle spasms (sometimes called spastic paralysis), changes in sexual function, breathing difficulties, and bowel and bladder control problems.
The force of a car accident can damage your spinal cord and the nerves it protects. Spinal injuries can occur in your spine’s neck, lumbar, or thoracic regions. Depending on which part of the spine is harmed, a diagnosis can be made for complete or incomplete spinal cord injuries.
A spinal cord injury that occurs higher up can lead to paralysis in all parts of the body, including the arms and legs (tetraplegia or quadriplegia), or it may affect only your lower body and legs (paraplegia). Complete spinal cord injuries are a medical emergency and require immediate treatment to reduce long-term effects.
Numerous fracture types may result from a rear-end collision’s force. These include pelvic bone fractures, rib fractures, and leg bones (femur and tibia). These bones can break if the body is suddenly jerked forward and slammed into its seat belt or another object in the vehicle.
The sternum and ribs, which protect your heart, lungs, and a portion of your guts, can break when you instinctively reach back to brace yourself for impact or because the car is suddenly lurched forward by an airbag or seat belt. The tibia and fibula in your legs can also break.
Broken bones can lead to pain and movement limitations for the rest of your life. It is essential to see a doctor promptly to ensure that the bones heal correctly.