12,500 Spinal injuries per year

Spinal injuries resulting from car accidents are a significant health concern, with car accidents accounting for over one third of the 12,500 annual spinal cord injuries in the U.S. These injuries can range from minor to severe, potentially leading to chronic pain, paralysis, and other long-term complications.

Common Types of Spinal Injuries from Car Accidents

  1. Whiplash: This soft-tissue injury damages the tendons in the neck and can occur in any area of the spine.
  2. Herniated disc: The rubbery discs that sit between the vertebrae can be displaced or broken open, causing the disc to press on nerves or the spinal cord.
  3. Spinal fracture: An accident can crack any of the vertebrae, leading to intense pain.
  4. Spondylolisthesis: Vertebrae can slip out of place and push on the bone below, often affecting the bones in the lower back.
  5. Spinal stenosis: Any narrowing in the spaces within your spine can put pressure on the spinal cord, leading to numbness, weakness, and pain.
  6. Spinal cord damage: Any tearing, nicking, bruising, or stretching of the spinal cord can result in impaired movement and sensation, potentially leading to permanent paralysis below the injury site.

Factors Influencing Spinal Injuries in Car Accidents

The lumbosacral spine is the most commonly involved region in spinal injuries from car accidents, with car rollovers being the most common mechanism of spinal fractures[1]. The majority of the victims are drivers of the vehicle, and the majority of spinal injuries occur during daytime.

Treatment and Prevention

Treatment for spinal injuries often begins at the accident scene and may include immobilization, surgery, and medication. Rehabilitation focuses on preventing further injury and empowering people to return to an active and productive life.

Prevention strategies include wearing a seat belt at all times, avoiding texting while driving, and abiding by the posted speed limit. Despite these measures, the excessive force involved in vehicle collisions means that a spinal injury from a car accident may never be completely avoidable.

Spinal injuries from car accidents can have severe and long-lasting impacts on individuals’ lives. Understanding the common types of injuries, their causes, and treatment options can help in managing these injuries and potentially preventing them. However, more research and efforts are needed to further reduce the incidence and severity of these injuries.