A spinal injury is one of the most severe car accident injuries a person can sustain. A car accident spine injury cannot only cause extreme pain and discomfort for the suffering individual but also, it can be debilitating. For some crash victims, spinal injuries can be fatal.
If you or a loved one sustained a spine injury in a car crash, you may now live in constant fear, worry, and doubt. How will you afford your medical bills, much less cover the cost of living? Will you ever be able to walk again? How can you overcome the emotional stress that your accident and injury triggered?
At Injured Call Today, we understand that you likely have dozens of questions and concerns. We also understand the stress you are under and have likely been under since the day of your accident. While we cannot guarantee the results of our treatment, we can tell you that we will do everything in our power to put your mind at ease by supporting you, both physically and emotionally, throughout your entire recovery journey. Following your initial exam, our car accident doctor will strive to help you understand your personal injury, explore and inform you of your treatment options, and take the steps necessary to avoid permanent damage and to maximize your recovery.
Unfortunately, spinal injuries are all too common in crash victims. In fact, according to the statistics, auto accidents account for nearly half of all new spinal injuries each year. The term “car accident spine injury,” though, is a broad one and merely refers to an injury that occurs along a person’s spine.
The spine consists of several components, including the vertebrae, discs, nerves, and spinal cord. Which components sustain injuries and where along the back they occur will heavily influence the impact an injury will have on your life. For instance, if a disc becomes injured, it may result in a pinched nerve, swelling, inflammation, and pain at the site of the injury. If a vertebra becomes damaged, it can affect parts of the body that are below the injury. In some cases, vertebrae damage can result in paralysis.
A car injury doctor can thoroughly evaluate your condition and perform the tests necessary to make an accurate diagnosis. Types of spinal injuries car accident doctors regularly see are as follows:
The symptoms of a car accident spine injury vary as drastically as the conditions themselves. Accident victims may feel nothing at first but, within hours or days of the accident begin to develop the progressive symptoms of an injury. Common symptoms of an injury to the spine are as follows:
If you develop any of these symptoms in the hours or days after a car accident, seek medical treatment from an accident injury doctor right away.
Some spinal injuries trigger symptoms immediately. When this happens, you should ask for transportation to the nearest car accident doctor directly from the scene of the crash. In some cases, you may sustain a severe injury but still not realize it until hours later. Severe injuries trigger specific symptoms you should not ignore. Signs that your car accident spine injury is a medical emergency are as follows:
If you or a loved one develop any of these symptoms following an auto accident, head to your nearest emergency room immediately. If you have a traumatic spine injury, your emergency team should transport you to a nearby facility that has the resources and capacity to run the appropriate tests and perform emergency spinal surgery.
Auto accidents are the leading cause of spinal injuries in the United States, accounting for 39.3% of all cases annually. The only other type of incident that even comes close to causing as many injuries to the spine each year is falling, which accounts for 31.8% of cases.
The reason that car crashes cause such a high rate of spine injuries is largely because of the human-to-car weight ratio. The average human weighs between 136 and 178 pounds. The average passenger vehicle, on the other hand, weighs a little more than two tons, at 4,156 pounds. When a vehicle collides with another vehicle or with a fixed object, the human body absorbs the energy and shock from much of the weight of the vehicle, which is substantially more weight than the human body can bear.
Shock aside, it is not uncommon for the human body to get thrown around during an accident. If this happens, there is the very real risk that the back will collide with other structures or bend at unnatural angles. Moreover, the risk exists that an object within the vehicle — or a component of the vehicle itself — will penetrate the back. Any of these situations can, and often do, result in spinal injuries.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about the weight discrepancy between you and your vehicle. Because of this, you cannot fully eliminate the risk that you will develop a spine injury in an auto accident. However, you can take steps to reduce the severity of a possible car accident-related spine injury. Those include the following:
Most car accidents and, therefore, many spine injuries, are preventable.
The consequences of a car accident spine injury are huge and many, and they can interfere with all aspects of a person’s life. Being unable to work is just the tip of the iceberg for many crash victims. Individuals who sustain spine injuries often become paralyzed and dependent upon others for everything from financial support to help with walking to daily assistance with simple tasks such as bathing, dressing, and eating. Your car accident doctor can inform you of the possible consequences of your particular injury and prepare you for treatment for and life with it.
The most devastating effect of a spine injury, and one that most accident doctors try to prevent with immediate treatment, is paralysis. Paralysis is a possibility if the spinal cord sustains any level of damage. Paralysis can be complete or partial and may be categorized as either quadriplegia or paraplegia.
Quadriplegia — which health professionals now refer to as tetraplegia — occurs when the damage affects the top of the spine or in the neck. With tetraplegia, you may feel little to no movement or sensation from the neck down.
Paraplegia only affects the lower half of the body, such as from the waist down. Paraplegia occurs when the damage is in the lower part of the spine. With paraplegia, impaired mobility typically affects the legs, feet and toes and may or may not affect the abdomen.
Spine injuries can cause a slew of other effects, with or without the presence of paralysis. Those may include but are not limited to the following:
These are all issues your accident injury doctors can help you anticipate and, with immediate and appropriate treatment, work to overcome.
The costs of a spinal injury are great, regardless of its severity. However, the costs vary greatly and are dependent on several factors, including your level of neurological impairment, your education and your pre-injury employment history.
The lifetime costs of a spine injury fall into two categories: Direct and indirect costs. Indirect costs include things like lost wages, productivity and fringe benefits. As of 2020, the indirect cost of a spine injury was just over $78,000 per year.
Direct costs include things like medical care, hospitalization, physical therapy, medical equipment, and surgery.
As of 2020, the lifetime cost of a car accident spine injury for direct costs were as follows for various injuries in terms of average annual expenses, estimated 1st-year costs, estimated lifetime cost (25 years), and estimated Lifetime Cost (50 years):
Loss of motor function: $379K, $46K, $1.7 million, $1.2 million
Paraplegia: $567K, $75K, $2.5 million, $1.7 million
Low Tetraplegia: $840K, $124K, $3.8 million, $2.3 million
High Tetraplegia: $1.6 million, $202K, $5.1 million, $2.8 million
People who live with spine injuries have lower life expectancies than those who do not. Though how greatly a spine injury can shorten one’s life depends on several factors, including the severity of the injury and his or her age at the time of the accident, the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center uses a 40-year-old with tetraplegia as an example. With an SCI, the 40-year-old has a life expectancy of another 24 years. A 40-year-old without an injury, however, has a life expectancy of another 41 years.
A car accident spine injury can take a huge toll on your life. To minimize its impact as much as possible, and to increase your odds of experiencing a complete recovery, get in touch with an accident injury doctor as soon after your accident as possible, even if you do not yet have symptoms of an injury. The sooner you receive a diagnosis, and the sooner you start treatment, the better your outcome is likely to be. Doctors accept no-fault insurance, PIP (Personal Injury Protection), workers’ compensation, medical liens, and most insurance plans. Request your first appointment today by submitting a form online.
Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/spinal-cord-injury/symptoms-causes/syc-20377890
Spine Universe: https://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/spinal-cord-injury/traumatic-spinal-cord-injury-facts-figures
Live Science: https://www.livescience.com/36470-human-population-weight.html#:~:text=The%20average%20body%20mass%2C%20globally,178%20pounds%20(80.7%20kg).
Spinal Cord Model System: https://www.uab.edu/medicine/sci/faqs-about-spinal-cord-injury-sci/what-is-tetraplegia#:~:text=Tetraplegia%20(sometimes%20referred%20to%20as,head%2C%20neck%2C%20and%20shoulders.
National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center: https://www.nscisc.uab.edu/Public/Facts%20and%20Figures%20-%202021.pdf
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