Hergott: Most car crash injuries are invisible

The stretched, strained and torn connective tissues of our body don’t show up as damaged when medical scans are done.

In the old days, before seatbelts, we were thrown forward against the steering wheel or dash board.  Points of impact would become black and blue, and fractures occurred.

The broad strap of a seatbelt saves your body from colliding with the interior of the vehicle, but of course it does nothing to stop the forces exerted on your body.  You are still thrown forward.  The only difference is that parts of you are stopped by the seatbelt that locks on impact.

Your head, weighing in at about 10-11 pounds (the weight of a small-medium sized 10 pin bowling ball), is completely unrestrained. What stops the bowling ball from hitting the dash board?  Your neck.

Your neck is not designed to act like the chain that yanks your dog back when it takes off after a squirrel in the campground.

The same goes for other unrestrained parts of your body.  Consider everything below your lap belt.  Some of us have more down there than others.  None of that is restrained, except by the connective tissues of the body between the belted in portions and the unrestrained portions.

The broad band of the seatbelt often leaves very little bruising, if any.  The stretched, strained and torn connective tissues of our body don’t show up as damaged when x-rays and other medical scans are done.

Pain doesn’t even come into play often for hours if not a day or two.  I know, it’s hard to understand, but consider the pain-free time between a work-out and the next morning when you wake up stiff and sore from having pushed those muscles beyond their comfort zone.

Articulate adults will put two and two together and realize that the pain they have the morning after a car crash means they were injured, and will seek the medical attention and direction they need in order to accelerate and maximize their healing.  We will anxiously try to get back to our normal routine and activities and won’t stop pushing for the care necessary to make that happen.

What about those who are less articulate?  What about the infant, properly restrained in a rear-facing car seat?  Keep in mind that “properly restrained” doesn’t include any restraint of the bowling ball.  What about the one, two, three, four year old?

What about the seven or eight year old who seems to feel a bit sore for a while, but stops complaining.  Does the end of complaining mean that the child has healed, or that the child has gotten used to their “new normal”.  What happens when that child gets to the point in school when hours of studying are required.  What happens when that child starts a trade and has difficulty with overhead work?

I find children’s ICBC claims to be the most difficult to prosecute.  We, the parents, are desperate to believe that our child has suffered only a temporary, minor injury, which sometimes leads us to ignore or fail to look for the subtle indications of a longer term problem.  We are also careful not to “fill our children’s heads” with notions of injury.

By the time the child starts experiencing real problems later in their schooling, or as they enter the job market, it is way, way, way too late to prove any connection with the crash that occurred years before.  There are always falls from horses or bicycles, trampoline incidents, etc., that ICBC can point to as “intervening events” that could have caused the problems.

As well as seeing a doctor, I recommend having your child objectively assessed by a pediatric physiotherapist and a chiropractor as soon as possible after a collision, the assessment done without letting the child know what it’s about and why it is being done.  Tissue damage that doesn’t show up on an x-ray can often be “felt” by these “soft tissue damage specialists”.

Important additional steps should be taken to ensure as quick and full a recovery as possible, as well as to ensure that your child is fairly compensated for problems that might surface in the child’s future.  Most personal injury lawyers will provide important free initial advice immediately after a crash, without any obligation.


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