Southwest Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Information Headquarters

Pathology of Motor Vehicle Accidents

Posted by Kale Isaacson on Jan 11, 2012 10:57:00 AM

car crash at SWOPTMotor vehicle accidents or MVA’s for short, are a very common injury
in our society. However when they occur, most people are unsure where
to go to get medical attention. The other problem is a lot of people do
not have pain or other symptoms immediately after the accident. The
most important thing to be aware of following an MVA, is that
symptoms/ pain can arise and/or worsen at any time following the MVA.

The direction of the impact plays a big role in what symptoms one
will have, and where the symptoms will occur. Excluding serious injuries
such as broken bones, head injuries, or internal injuries, let’s talk about
the more common injuries that usually occur with MVA’s:

1. SPRAINS: Sprains refer to Ligaments and Connective Tissue.
Connective tissue does just what it says in the name: it connects
things together, most of the time, joints. Think about it, if we
didn’t have something holding the 2 ends of our bones together
at a joint, they wouldn’t move correctly upon each other. Also, a
ligament connects a bone to a bone, helping to stabilize a joint.
So, to reiterate, a sprain occurs when the Connective tissue or
the ligaments tear in response to an injury such as a car

2. STRAINS: Strains occur when muscles and or tendons become
torn. A tendon connects a muscle to a bone, so that when a
muscle contracts, it moves the bone.

3. HEADACHES: the average head weighs about as much as a 12
pound bowling ball. It is balanced on the spine which, for
simplistic reasons, is a stack of 26 blocks. So when there is an
impact like what occurs in an MVA, it pushes the body
immediately in one direction. Because the head is balanced on the
spine, it tends to lag behind initially, and when it gets to the end
of the Ligaments and Tendons, it takes off in the same direction
as the body. Once the body stops moving, the head comes
screaming by and again, continues until it runs into the ends of
the Ligaments and Tendons on the other side of the body. It
then stops going that direction and switches back the other
direction. This phenomenon is called a “whiplash” and causes
headaches, neck pain, and back pain. It is created by the elastic
recoil of the head, neck and soft tissues(ligaments, connective
tissue. muscles and tendons).

4. NERVE ROOT COMPRESSION- Impingement or compression of
the nerve root is one of the most common complications of
Whiplash. Nerve root pain radiates away from the neck so that
you feel the pain wherever the nerve travels or is positioned in
the body. This is called “Radicular pain” or “Radiculitis”. The
nerve root is injured in the accident when it is either pinched by
bone, bruised, or stretched.untitled1

So that ends our discussion of what we could call the “Pathology of
MVA’s”, hopefully describing all of the mechanisms that occur with an
MVA, and the structures that are injured during an accident. In the
next Blog, we will discuss the Rehab of a whiplash injury. Cheers, Kale.

Topics: health, injuries