I recently had the chance to sit down with a good friend who happens to also be a physician. Here are some of his answers to common questions related to motor vehicle accidents and injuries.
What are the most common delayed car accident symptoms?
If I had put it in order I’d say musculoskeletal because you hit something and don’t realize how hard you hit it and a day later your sore almost like working out and you are sore the next day. Sometimes an occult fracture can have more serious ramifications that occur later. An occult fracture is almost like a stress fracture or something that didn’t present on X-Rays right away
So why wouldn’t it show on an x-ray?
It’s almost like the splitting of a piece of wood. It hasn’t completely happened yet. It’s in process.
A great analogy would be a pebble hits your windshield and you just get one little speck there and a few days later you have a full blown crack.
Are certain people more susceptible to that type of injury?
The health of someone’s bones can certainly make a difference so someone middle age or older may have more of a propensity than someone younger. That would really be a pre-existing condition issue rather than something occurring just from the accident.
But certainly a preexisting condition can be aggravated?
Next, sometimes it can be a traumatic brain injury that can occur later. It can be a concussion where neurologically they are intact and then later on, maybe months down the line they have intractable dizziness or they have tinnitus or they have headaches. Perhaps they never had migraines and now they do.
Also, Internal injuries, like bleeding or things like that probably happen more acutely. For example if your spleen is lacerated it would likely show up right away. However there are exceptions. Like a hematoma that decides to increase in size over time. Let’s say it’s a very small laceration of the spleen and it’s trickling blood and it’s not noticed on a CT Scan initially but days later you have a big pocket blood.
Or what if the person doesn’t go to the hospital because I don’t think it’s as severe of an injury and they don’t even have the opportunity get tested right away?
That goes without saying for any of the scenarios. And that happens a lot. People want to think the best and not feel that they are injured and if they feel ok then that seems reasonable. The problem is sometimes these are injuries that are in evolution.
The other issue we seen our practice is that if someone has one or two severe injuries like a significant fracture, another part of their body could be hurt but it’s overshadowed by the more severe injury and they don’t even realize the extent of their injuries.
Absolutely. It’s finding and figuring out what happened immediate and what is in evolution and triaging it appropriately based on the medical need.
So if someone did not go to the hospital right away and then the next day they feel soreness or pain what do you recommend medically?
I think it’s always a good idea to seek out medical care sooner rather than later because you just don’t know what you don’t know and you can’t tell if it’s soreness that’s going to go away or if it’s truly something that smoldering on the inside. So at the very least it’s good idea to go get medical care so you can rule out things. You can get medical tests, whether its x-rays or CT-Scans so you can at least doctors can tell there isn’t something going on, at least right now.
Otherwise, it can be a crapshoot. Your going to have soreness after a jarring car crash, the question is, is any of that soreness substantial with something going on internally or something that will remedy itself with rest and medication.
If someone does have this symptoms a day or two after their car crash where do recommend they get medical treatment? Emergency room, urgent care, family doctor or something else?
If you have a good primary care doctor start with a phone call there and let someone assess you that knows about you and has seen you before. Then they have a way to compare how you were before and how you are now.