“An automobile accident can happen in different ways: impact can occur from the front, rear, or side. Most road accidents cause extensive orthopedic injuries, along with trauma-related mental health problems. Of all the automobile-related injuries, knee injury as a result of twisting of the leg is most common. A ‘dashboard knee’ is caused when the bent knee of someone sitting in the front seat slams against the dashboard.
This may happen even when driving the car as slow as 20 kmph. Besides pain and swelling, this can lead to strains or tears in major ligaments, and trauma to the joint over the long term. In fact, one of the strongest ligaments in the body, present in the knee, called the posterior cruciate ligament, often gets damaged,” says Dr. Maninder Shah Singh, Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Chief, Foot & Ankle Unit, Coordinator Sports Injury Unit, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre.
Restraints like airbags and seatbelts are often able to prevent direct contact of the upper body region during car accidents, however, most cars in India do not come pre-loaded with airbags, and this is considered a ‘luxury safety’ facility. Moreover, seatbelts go unchecked for tears and breaks for years on end, and may malfunction during an actual collision. Airbag safety is sometimes not taken into consideration, with passengers avoiding seatbelts for short distances, or putting their legs up on the seat or even the dashboard.
“The driver may suffer injuries if his head strikes the steering wheel, windshield, or the dashboard, especially during a rollover. While minor head injuries heal with time, hitting hard on the dashboard may cause fractures in the head or even result in traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the future. Some other injuries caused due to auto accidents are neck injuries, spinal cord injuries, and back injuries. Injuries to internal body organs (kidney, liver, etc.) and psychological injuries (stress, anxiety, and trauma) are also, unfortunately, becoming common,” adds Dr. Maninder Shah Singh.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among young people (between the ages of 15-29) worldwide. In India, there is one death every four minutes due to a road accident, and 20 children under the age of 14 die every day due to road crashes in the country, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Government of India.
“Injuries from road accidents can impact a person's mobility and other functional abilities and may sometimes need rehabilitation. It is very important to consult a specialist doctor and undergo the required tests, if you have experienced a road accident, and now experiencing symptoms such as swelling, joint pain, or even difficulty with balance when standing or walking. Dashboard injuries to the knee may require surgery, so an opinion from an orthopedic surgeon should be sought if you have pain and swelling in the knee. For minor injuries, your doctor may recommend physiotherapy and certain stretching exercises. These must be done, even for seemingly minor injuries. People tend to neglect them and then they turn into life-long problems that need constant management,” shares Dr. Maninder Shah Singh.
Tips to stay protected:
- Follow city rules in terms of speed, car maintenance, seat belt usage, and phone usage.
- Always put children into the back seat, and never drive with them in front. Use car seat for babies and young children.
- Avoid loose items inside the car as these can act as projectiles in an accident, causing further injury.
- Apply ice and for a minor injury.
- Follow the doctor’s instructions even after you are healed and ready to head back to work.