Most Common Soft Tissue Injuries from Car Accidents

Soft tissue injuries can refer to a wide range of damage, some of which may be easy to brush off as aches and pains. But after a car accident, injuries to the muscles, ligaments, and tendons can become serious problems if they go overlooked. From whiplash to strains to brain bruising, soft tissue injuries are one of the most common things accident doctors see after a crash, so knowing what to look for can be crucial. Read on to understand how these impact your body and the most common injuries sustained in accidents.

What Is Soft Tissue?

Soft tissue is a broad term that applies to many parts of the body, meaning types of cells that work together to connect, envelop, support, and/or move surrounding structures. In the context of injuries, soft tissue usually means muscles, tendons, ligaments, or fascia. However, skin, fat, the nervous system, blood systems, and many other parts of the body are soft tissue.

Because of their soft nature and the interconnectedness of these tissues, they can be easily injured in a variety of ways after something sudden or traumatic occurs, such as a car accident. Depending on the type of tissue and severity of the injury, they may or may not fully heal or cause more permanent issues.

The Most Common Soft Tissue Injury: Whiplash

You’ve likely heard of whiplash as a common injury after a car accident, but you may not have associated it with the soft tissue. How do you identify whiplash symptoms? Whiplash occurs when the head is suddenly jolted backward and forward upon impact, so you may think it has to do with the cervical spine. While this portion of the spine is impacted, whiplash itself is a soft tissue injury. The sudden movement of the head usually stretches the soft tissue in the area beyond its normal capacity, leading to damage to the soft tissue, such as a strain, sprain, or even a tear.

A sprain to the soft tissue occurs when the ligaments connecting your bones are overstretched, leading to pain and bruising in the area and impaired movement. On the other hand, strains are injuries to the tendons that connect the muscles to the bones, which can have similar impacts. In a tear, the soft tissue is not just stretched but severed to some extent, which can take longer to heal.

Other Common Soft Tissue Injuries

While whiplash is the most common injury seen by accident doctors, many types of injuries are possible in a car accident, including the following.

Contusions: Contusions are forms of bruises, occurring when your capillaries or blood vessels are struck with enough force to damage them, causing the blood to leak into the surrounding tissue. Bruises are not uncommon and are usually harmless, however, they can also be signs of other injuries like broken bones, sprains, or strains.

Cerebral Contusions or Concussions: Also known as closed head injuries, bruising, swelling, or bleeding inside the skull around the brain are a form of contusions. Unlike other contusions, there may be no visible signs of injury when this occurs, which is why they should always be immediately ruled out by an accident doctor. Concussions are also a closed head injury that occurs when the brain hits against the skull or another hard surface.

Lacerations: These can range from minor cuts to severe gashes. They may impact only the skin, but a deep enough laceration could also touch other soft tissue beneath the skin. Shattered glass, road burn, flying debris, and impacts to the body can all cause lacerations in a car accident. These will appear immediately and some will require immediate care to stop bleeding and other negative effects.

Treating Soft Tissue Injuries

Sprains and strains are most commonly treated with non-invasive measures, such as rest, icing, and pain management. In some cases, the area surrounding the tissue may be immobilized with something like a brace, or physical therapy may be needed in order to regain strength as the tissue is healed. Severe tears or cases that do not improve may require surgery in rare cases.

A doctor at a car accident clinic will be familiar with the common soft tissue injuries that occur after a car accident and should always be consulted. At Fox Integrated Health, our doctors will look for signs of these problems on the first visit to begin developing personalized treatment plans.