Newer Cars May Be Putting Your Spine At Greater Risk For Injury

Category: Spinal Cord Injury | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: April 7, 2016

spine injuries car accident

The headline of this blog post may sound counter-intuitive, as newer cars are always being touted as having “next gen safety features” or being “the safest cars on the market,” but new research suggests newer cars may actually be putting your spine at greater risk for injury.

This isn’t to say that newer cars aren’t safer than older cars – in fact, the vehicles we’re producing today actually are the safest we’ve ever designed in terms of keeping you alive during an accident. New cars can detect obstacles, brake for the driver and come equipped with side-impact airbags, going above and beyond the old standard of a front-impact airbag and a seatbelt. All these new features are designed to keep you alive during an accident, and the two body areas most often injured during a fatal accident are your head and chest. We’ve gotten much better at protecting these areas, but researchers out of Milwaukee say it comes with a cost.

“What we have hypothesized is that the seats in the new cars are being designed a little different with additional optimizing to protect the head and the chest so they will get better scores in the safety tests, but there is no trade-off criteria for the spine, and so now we’re seeing in the field fractures that we never got before,” said Dr. Frank Pintar, a professor of neurosurgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin and director of its crash test lab.

Spine Safety in New Vehicles

According to Dr. Pintar, although we’re seeing fewer deadly head and chest injuries during the past few years, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of disabling lumbar spine injuries. He believes the next step in protecting American drivers is by designing a test to measure these risk-offsets to ensure newer car designs are overlooking the driver’s spine. The goal isn’t to decrease the level of protection offered to your head and chest, but to figure out a way to keep those protections in place while also adding safety features to cushion your spine during a wreck. Pintar’s team expects to have guidance recommendations to auto manufacturers by the end of the summer.

Car crashes are one of the most common ways people injure their spines. Your spine is fragile, and a forceful crash can easily throw something out of whack. If you’ve been in a car accident, even if it was at low speeds, you should consider getting checked out by a spine specialist. It’s also important to remember that spine injuries don’t always present symptoms right away, meaning pain can develop days or week after an accident. These underlying conditions can be caught if you visit a spine specialist after an accident, even if you’re not feeling any major symptoms. For more information about spine care after a car accident, contact Dr. Sinicropi today.

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