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Common Leg Injuries from Car Accidents

Mar 28, 2022

Common Leg Injuries from Car AccidentsTransportation agencies within the United States report that there are over two hundred million registered drivers, commuting to work and school, running errands, taking road trips, and spending a record amount of time out on the road to the tune of a yearly collective 70 billion hours.

With so many drivers spending so much time on the road, accidents are bound to happen. While there is no way to determine the precise number due to the amount that goes unreported, there are at least seven million car crashes yearly. Distracted driving is the main reason for most car accidents, but reckless driving, speeding, and environmental factors like weather cause many car accidents as well.

The number of car accident injuries sustained is equally difficult to predict accurately, but experts believe that there are at least three million a year, and that number is increasing every day.

The kinds of injuries people report are wide and varied, but many are soft tissue injuries like whiplash, while other common injuries include broken bones. There are many forms of treatment for injury from a car accident, and a chiropractor can be a helpful resource.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Commission has found that 37% of car accident injuries involve damage to the legs. This can look many different ways, but below are some of the main forms of leg injuries in accidents.

Bruises and Cuts

When you are in a car accident, the impact can cause items within your car to move in unexpected ways, or the glass or some other portion of your car may break. The impact may also cause you to bump into your steering wheel or up against the glove compartment. Whatever the circumstances, bruises and cuts are very common injuries in car accidents. You will notice a laceration to the skin right away, but bruises, which are evidence of blood pooling underneath the skin, may take time to show up, especially on darker skin. Most bruises and cuts heal on their own and need no more than at-home First Aid care, but some deeper or more severe injuries require other interventions, like stitches or surgery.

Crushed or Broken Bones

Over sixty bones make up the bottom half of your body, from the hips to the toes. Any of these bones are vulnerable to fractures during an accident. There is also the possibility of shattering related to a crush injury, defined as physical trauma as a result of prolonged pressure on the body. Crush injuries affect not only your bones but your soft tissues as well, and any other part of your leg.

There are different forms of fractures, ranging in severity. There are differences between a fracture and a break. Some fractures are partial and do not cause the bone to separate in any way, while other fractures are complete or protrude from broken skin. Because some fractures are hard to detect for up to several days, you should see a doctor after experiencing a car accident so that you can be screened for breaks using x-rays and other tools.

ACL Injuries

Your femur (thigh bone) has several bands of tissue connecting it to the patella (kneecap) and tibia (shin bone). One of these bands of tissue is referred to as the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. Injuries to this band of tissue are common, with between 100,000 and 200,000 cases reported each year, and athletes are especially vulnerable to them. However, car accidents are another common cause for ACL injuries, especially tears to the ligament.

If you are experiencing a tear to your anterior cruciate ligament, you may notice some or all of the following symptoms:

  • A cracking or popping sound at the time of the incident
  • Swelling in the knee
  • Unstable on your feet, especially when walking or standing
  • Reduced range of motion in the knee, making walking or moving difficult
  • Severe pain in the knee

ACL injuries can be diagnosed using x-ray and other imaging tools.

Meniscus Tears

The meniscus is a part of the knee. The place where the femur and tibia meet is cushioned by two wedges of cartilage to absorb shock. These wedges are called menisci.

Tears to the meniscus are one of the most common knee injuries. Athletes, especially those in contact sports like rugby or American football, are at the most risk for a meniscus tear, but they are common results of car accidents as well.

At first, you may experience some pain but be able to walk. Over the next few days, however, your knee will be stiffer, and you will have more difficulty bearing weight or walking. When your meniscus tears, you may feel or hear a pop in your knee, and you may feel your leg suddenly give out from under you. There is likely to be swelling and stiffness in the knee as well.

The RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) is a good method of self-care for this injury. A meniscus tear does not require immediate surgical intervention, and while you heal, you can manage the pain with over-the-counter medications or steroidal injections from your doctor. Oftentimes, however, you may eventually need surgery to help repair the meniscus and to prevent long-term complications.

Herniated Discs

Your spinal column, spine, or backbone, protects the long cord that reaches from your neck to below your waist. The spinal cord contains 33 vertebrae, also called discs, each with the job of protecting the nerves that send signals from your brain to the rest of your body.

Each vertebra is usually protected by a hard outer layer called an annulus, but due to age, physical trauma, and other potential influences, the spongy material the annulus protects slips out. This slippage is a herniated disc.

Herniated discs can be very painful due to the pressure they place on the spinal cord. Most of the time, herniated discs occur in the lower back. This placement means that the nerves connecting the brain to the leg can be compromised, causing pain or, in some cases, paralysis.


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