Auto injuries are a common problem seen in clinical practice. Most of the time, a patient will have some temporary discomfort from an auto injury that will resolve within a few weeks. Auto injury doctors have found that a significant percentage of patients – around 20 to 30% – will develop some kind of chronic pain or disability from their injury. Studies have looked at the issue of chronic pain to see if there are any predictive factors that can help us determine who is at risk of developing long-term problems.
Some of the risk factors that will be explored to help determine who may be more likely to develop long term problems from an auto injury include gender, whether an occupants head is turned, the direction of impact, and previous injury history.
The gender of an accident victim plays a role in determining risk factors for developing long-term problems following an auto accident. Numerous studies have found that women were more likely than men to be injured in general, which confirms previous studies. The reason for this conclusion is that researchers speculate that the lower muscle mass in female necks may increase the risk of injury.
During an automobile accident the position of the head and how it is turned plays a role in the risk factor for developing long-term problems from an automobile crash. Two recent studies have been done on this issue, and they both have found that when the occupant’s head is turned at the moment of impact, the spine is exposed to motion that exceeds the normal physiological range. This can result in ligament tears or damage to the spinal nerve roots.
The next issue explored may be the direction of impact. It’s been noted for years that the rear-finish collision is more prone to lead to injuries than is really a frontal collision. Studies have found that rear-end collisions were a greater risk factor than frontal impacts.
The last risk factor explored is the accident victim’s history of previous injuries. It’s not surprising that a pre-existing injury to the neck or shoulder could be worsened after an auto collision and cause increased long term problems. In fact, auto injury doctors have seen that patients with a history of neck and/or shoulder pain were more than twice as likely to have chronic problems three years after an auto collision.
The studies explored help us treat auto injuries. They demonstrate the need to take a careful and thorough history of the collision. By knowing whether these risk factors exist, improved treatment can be administered. In addition by being aware of risk factors, we can focus our attention on those patients more likely to suffer long-term consequences of their auto injury.