“I Thought I Was OK”—The Invisible Accident Injury

You emerged with no broken bones, cuts or scratches. You were thankful and relieved that you survived a car accident without any injuries. But a few days or weeks later, you started to notice you were definitely not okay.

Invisible or delayed injuries after car accidents are extremely common and yet there isn’t a lot of awareness about them. Sometimes these injuries are painful but treatable and fairly minor. Others are more serious and require complex medical attention.

Take concussions, for example. Concussions are a common injury in car accidents, but many people do not realize they may have had one, and opt not to go to the hospital for further assessment and treatment. Left undiagnosed and untreated, a brain injury such as a concussion can have serious and long-term effects, such as:

  • Balance issues including vertigo and dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Trouble focusing, paying attention, or having “brain fog”
  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues

One Ontario city has launched a campaign that will raise awareness about concussions, which includes a program to give information cards to people involved in car accidents who may have a concussion but choose not to go to the hospital. The North Bay Road Safety Committee will track the number of cards that are distributed and communicate the total to the public, thereby raising awareness about the potential for concussions in car accidents, and the need to take them seriously.

Aside from concussions, there are a number of other not-immediately-apparent injuries that are commonly sustained in car accidents. Whiplash is a a soft tissue injury that can affect the entire body though pain, reduced range of motion, numbness, headaches, and other symptoms. Often, whiplash is not felt for several days after an accident.

A truly invisible injury stemming from car accidents is an emotional injury, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can be incredibly disruptive and damaging to a person’s mental wellness, but may not present itself for months after the accident. Some signs of PTSD include flashbacks and nightmares about the accident.

While anyone can sustain one of these “invisible” injuries, children are at a particularly higher risk. It’s always a good idea to seek medical attention following an accident, especially if children have been involved, and to pay attention to your body and how it feels in the days and weeks that follow.