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How Seat Belts Impact Auto Injury

New research reveals how seat belts can impact your risk of injury in a car accident. To find out more about fighting auto injuries, don't hesitate to ask your Somerville chiropractor, Dr. Cordima.  

Orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons at the Medical College of Wisconsin are like others at hospitals in any other part of the U.S. They diagnose a lot of patients who have an auto injury that affects the spine.

So when they wanted to get a broader perspective on the patterns of auto injuries across the country, they knew where to look: the Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network database, where thousands of car accident cases are entered every year.

The Wisconsin doctors analyzed the medical records of 4,572 patients who were moderately to severely injured in car accidents between 1996 and 2011. They looked for what these patients had in common.

There were 631 patients who had an auto injury to the thoracic and lumbar spine. About 47% of the patients had major injuries while the rest had minor injuries. There were two three types of injuries – flexion-distraction injuries, extension injuries and fractures. Flexion-distraction injuries are an auto injury that results from the upper body and head moving forward. Extension injuries result when the body bends backward.

In the case of a flexion-distraction auto injury, the victim was usually a child or young adult. Those suffering from extension injuries were usually older adults around 65 years old and overweight.

Those who had an extension auto injury were the worst. Almost one in every four of these patients died from this auto injury. Other auto accidents had a fatality rate of about 11%.

The doctors discovered that if the patient’s auto injury was only a minor one to the thoracic and/or lumbar spine, their injuries were worse. This was primarily because the injuries were to the pelvis and abdomen.

Seat Belts Matter

Wearing three-point seat belts protected passengers against neurological injury, fatality, and developing worse injuries. However, wearing three-point seat belts more than tripled the risk of spinal fractures compared to two-point seatbelts. Those who used two-point belted seat belts had flexion-distraction injuries most of the time. And those who didn’t wear a seat belt suffered from dislocations as well as a higher risk of having spinal fractures in the thoracic and lumbar areas.

Seat belts have their good points and their bad. They tend to reduce the severity of injuries and mortality but simultaneously increase vertebral fractures in the thoracic and lumbar spine.

If you are suffering from an auto injury, seek both medical and chiropractic care. You’ll get the best of both worlds. Call Cordima Chiropractic in Somerville, MA to speed your recovery from auto injuries.


 Rao, R.D., et al. Occupant and crash characteristics in the thoracic and lumbar spine injuries resulting from motor vehicle collisions. Spine Journal 2014. 

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