Car Accident Seatbelt Injuries
Wearing a three-point seat belt can save your life. It is your best protection from life-threatening car accident-related injuries. In fact, since it was introduced in 1973, three-point seat belts have greatly reduced the number of fatal auto accident injuries.
However, even though it can save your life, it can lead to various seat belt injuries. The type of injury depends on the direction of impact. A three-point seat belt or harness straps and secures the person’s torso to the car seat. It rests on the shoulder, chest, and lower abdomen near the hip. During a collision, the seat belt transfers the force of impact into the passenger and these attachment points become the site of blunt trauma. If the force of collision is strong enough, it can even injure underlying organs.
What are the different seat belt-related injuries?
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Emergencies, Trauma, and Shock has highlighted the common patterns in seat belt injuries as seen in auto accident patients:
Injury to the chest and shoulders
If you are wearing a seatbelt correctly, the chest and the breastbone are the direct points of impact in the event of a head-on collision. The breastbone and the ribs protect your lungs, heart, spleen, and the upper part of your liver, so any injury to this area may also affect these delicate organs.
In the rare event that the first and second rib get fractured from the shoulder harness, it can pierce major blood vessels (carotid and subclavian) and lead to severe bleeding.
Seat belt sign and seat belt syndrome
A seat belt sign is a characteristic bruising or abrasion across the chest and the abdomen where the seat belt made contact with the body. If the seat belt sign is present, there is a high likelihood of internal injuries.
On the other hand, Seat belt syndrome includes a seat belt sign with injury to the spine and the abdominal organs.
Injury to intra-abdominal organs
Unlike the organs in the chest, abdominal organs are not protected by bones (at least, not the front or the anterior portion). The force of impact can lead to intestinal injuries such as intestinal perforation or ruptured bowel and seromuscular tear.
Injury to the bones and other musculoskeletal structures
Chance fractures are also known as seat belt fractures and are more common in lap-belts than in three-point belts. These result from forceful spine flexion (or bending of the spine towards the abdomen), followed by spine extension.
At DuPage Health and Physical Therapy Center, SC, we can treat many types of seatbelt injuries. We will work with you to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs. Treatment may include chiropractic adjustments, rehabilitative exercises, and more. Our Naperville, IL office offers a variety of options to address auto accident injuries.