Have you ever noticed that there are really only two types of auto accidents? There is the, “My car was smashed-I am lucky to be alive-wonder if they are going to total my car-I am hurting all over,” crash. And then, there is the, “It Was Just a Fender-Bender,” accident. You may be surprised, but the Fender-Bender where you just got a little neck pain and a slight headache may actually turn out to be the much more serious accident.
Let me explain. First, the physics of a motor vehicle accident. Force= Mass x Acceleration. Simply put, how hard something hits you is a combination of how big it is times how fast it is moving. If an object is small it can still hit you with a lot of force if it is moving rapidly. The classic example of that would be a bullet. If I throw it at you it wouldn’t do too much damage but when shot with high-velocity it is deadly. Likewise, a large object doesn’t have to be moving very quickly to hit you with a lot of force.
Now, let’s talk about car design. Most automobiles made in the last 15-20 years were designed with collisions in mind. They are engineered to preserve life in a high-speed crash and to preserve damage to the vehicle in a low-speed collision. In a high-speed collision, the car will crumple like an accordion to absorb the force. In low speeds, the car is designed to withstand such force.
In any auto accident, there is a transfer of force. The stiffer the object, the less it absorbs, so it transfers to the next softest thing. The softest structure in a car is a person. So, with high impact collisions, the car will absorb most of the force but in a low impact collision, it is the person in the vehicle that will. As a result, people who are in a minor collision can actually have worse soft tissue damage than someone in a really bad accident.
If you are ever in an auto accident, even if it seems like no big deal, I would highly encourage you to get an examination. Otherwise, what can happen is that joints that don’t heal properly can, over time, become dysfunctional which will lead to poor health and pain. I see people daily with necks that have been through a whiplash injury. At the time of the accident, there wasn’t too much pain. Months to years later, much like erosion, degenerative change takes over complicating the healing tenfold.