What are the common causes of paralysis after a car crash?

There are several kinds of injuries that can lead to paralysis in a car crash. From lower back injuries to damage to the cervical spinal cord, it’s possible to suffer varied levels of paralysis regardless of which part of the spine is hurt.

There are a few common reasons why people suffer injuries bad enough to result in paralysis. Being thrown from the vehicle is a common cause, as they have nothing to slow them down or prevent them from hitting the ground or being crushed by other objects. High impacts causing extreme whiplash are another common cause. Striking hard objects is a third.

It’s important for people to know that many of these severe injuries to the spine can be prevented or minimized by wearing a seat belt properly. The use of airbags, traveling at or below the speed limit and other actions can reduce the likelihood of a crash severe enough to lead to paralysis.

What kinds of paralysis can occur?

There are two primary forms of paralysis that people suffer from after crashes. These include complete or incomplete paralysis. Complete paralysis occurs when the spinal cord is severed or completely damaged in a way that no longer allows for communication from the brain to the body. Incomplete injuries allow some feeling or control, but there is still a loss of function.

On top of those two categories of injuries, additional paralysis types may include:

  • Locked-in syndrome, which happens when a person loses control of all functions other than eye movement
  • Paraplegia, which occurs from the waist downward
  • Monoplegia, which affects a single limb
  • Diplegia, which affects the same region on both sides
  • Hemiplegia, which affects only one side of the body
  • Tetraplegia (also called quadriplegia), which affects all four limbs

All these kinds of paralysis can lead to dysfunction. Some people will lose all sensation. Others will have pain. Some will have the functionality of their limbs, but others may not.

After a crash, it’s important for anyone with a spinal cord injury to stay where they are and allow an emergency team to take them to the hospital. Early treatment may help reduce swelling and minimize the damage, so the patient has the best chance of survival and recovery.