Airbags undoubtedly save lives every day, as they help to lower the risk of hitting your head and body against hard surfaces, being ejected from the vehicle, or suffering severe injuries due to glass and debris. However, they don’t come without risk and can often lead to their own kinds of injury. Just because your airbag deployed during an accident does not mean that you haven’t suffered some form of injury. It’s important to learn about the kinds of injuries that airbags can cause so that you know what to look for and when to visit a whiplash chiropractor for treatment.
How Do Airbags Work?
Airbags are made from a light fabric and deploy from the steering wheel or a panel on the passenger side of the dashboard. While the driver’s airbag is about the size of a fully inflated large beach ball, the passenger’s airbag is larger to make up for the fact that it is farther away from the passenger. Some cars also have airbags located in vehicle doors that can be deployed in side-impact crashes.
A crash sensor is used to deploy the airbags when the car is in a crash that meets its threshold. This typically occurs in a head-on or near head-on crash at a speed above 10 mph. Crashes that are severe enough can also trigger an igniter to produce a gas, typically nitrogen or argon, to fill the airbag and deploy. This process occurs in about 1/20th of a second. The airbag then deflates almost immediately, but the deployment can release dust and chemicals in the process.
There are some cases where a crash sensor malfunctions and causes an airbag to deploy incorrectly, or not at all. When an airbag deploys even a fraction of a second too late, it could lead to serious injury.
Common Injuries from Airbag Deployment
Many body parts can be exposed to the airbag, leaving a variety of injuries possible during the process of deployment. While these are some of the most common injuries to occur due to airbags, others are possible.
Because of the positioning of airbags, your face is the easiest target during a crash. The airbag prevents your face from coming in contact with the windshield, however, the force of the airbag can strike your eye or fracture fragile bones in the face. Eye damage, including temporary or permanent blindness, is possible. Concussions may also occur if the impact is strong enough.
In order to prevent your body from being thrown out of the car, airbags deploy very fast and hard. If it collides with your moving body, the chest area may be vulnerable to injury. Broken bones in the chest or damage to the soft tissue is not uncommon.
Neck and Back Injuries
Your spine and cervical spine are also vulnerable to the impact of an airbag. While your body is prevented from being thrust forward like it might otherwise, damage to soft tissue can still cause you to suffer from whiplash or other similar car accident injuries as the soft tissue is damaged. Just because you did not notice the traditional, jolting movement does not mean you will not need to see a whiplash chiropractor if you are suffering from stiffness and pain in the back or neck.
The speed of an airbag deployment can cause surface abrasions or burns. The face and arms are most likely to suffer from this. Think about the fabric coming in contact with your skin, and suffering from something like rug burn, but as a result of this.
The chemicals that release during deployment can irritate the lungs or even cause asthma attacks. The skin can also become irritated, causing a condition known as airbag dermatitis.
Additionally, enough pressure on the abdomen can cause damage like lacerations to organs, including the liver, spleen, lungs, and heart. In severe cases, internal bruising or bleeding is possible.
In order to prevent injuries, your seat should be approximately 10 inches from where the airbag will deploy. However, some injuries will be unavoidable as a part of the airbag protecting you from more severe consequences.
Treatment for Airbag Injuries
What do you do after an accident? Just like other injuries sustained in car accidents, airbag injuries require expert care. At AICA Marietta, our whiplash chiropractors work with a range of other chiropractors and specialists to create comprehensive care plans for car accident victims. If you have recently been in a car accident in which airbags were deployed, contact AICA Marietta today for an evaluation.