If you have a high-impact automobile accident, there is a good chance your torso may push up against your car’s locked seat belt. While your seat belt certainly may save your life, you may also walk away from the crash with a nasty bruise across your midsection.
Unlike many bruises that are more cosmetic than a health risk, a seat belt bruise may indicate a medical emergency. Rather than ignoring your bruise, you should always go to the emergency room or otherwise seek a medical examination. After all, your bruise may be a symptom of seat belt syndrome.
What Is Seat Belt Syndrome?
Seat belt syndrome is simply the collective name doctors assign to a host of injuries that seat belts may cause in motor vehicle accidents. While your seat belt syndrome may only be a bruise, you may also have serious bodily harm, including any of the following:
- Fractured ribs, bones, or vertebrae
- Bruised, torn, or lacerated organs
- Torn, strained, or sprained muscles
- Bruised, torn, or severed spinal cord
- Damaged soft tissues
Remember, your body’s stress response may hide injury symptoms. That is, you may not realize you have sustained a serious seat belt injury until hours or even days after the crash.
Because they see many car accident victims, doctors in the emergency room are familiar with seat belt syndrome. When examining you, they may use a variety of diagnostic techniques to rule out serious injuries.
These may include blood tests, x-rays and CT scans. If a diagnostic tool concerns doctors, they may hold you in the hospital for observation of your seat belt injury.
Common Seat Belt Injury & Symptoms
Despite the fact that seat belts are intended to protect passengers, seat belt injuries can frequently happen in auto accidents. These injuries might be minor or serious. Abrasions and contusions are frequent signs of seat belt injuries, and they frequently occur along the seatbelt's distribution or path.
Injuries to the chest and shoulders are also frequent, including bruised and fractured ribs, and trauma to the sternum. These injuries result from the force exerted by the seat belt during an accident.
Abdominal injuries are another common symptom, with 'seat belt syndrome' specifically referring to bruising to the abdomen and abdominal pain. In more serious cases, these can also involve injury to intra-abdominal organs.
Whiplash, which happens when the head is suddenly thrust in one direction and then another, is one of the most common injuries from seat belts. Whiplash causes pain in the neck. It's important to get medical help right away if you feel uncomfortable after a car accident because some injuries might not show up right away.