Side Impact Crashes and Brain Injury

Side Impact Crashes and Brain Injury

People involved in automobiles that are were involved in side impact collisions are three times more likely to sustain a traumatic brain injury than people involved in head on or other types of collisions, according to a University of Rochester study published online for the August, 2004, edition of Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Lead author Jeffrey Bazarian, M.D., MPH, also found that brain injuries from side impact collisions are usually more severe. Bazarian and colleagues analyzed a sample of all collisions reported by police to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the year 2000 to determine the relative risk for brain injuries. Bazarian is an attending physician in the Strong Memorial Hospital Emergency Department who has closely been studying several aspects of brain trauma. Three years ago the National Institutes of Health funded him to start the nation’s first Emergency Department based registry of traumatic brain injuries.

Other key findings from the NHTSA analysis:

  • Better head protection could reduce all crash related brain injuries by up to 61 percent, and fatal or critical brain injuries by up to 23.5 percent. In raw numbers, that would translate into 2,230 fewer deaths or critical injuries each year.
  • Traumatic brain injury is the cause of death in 51 percent to 74 percent of single vehicle side collisions, and 41 percent to 64 percent of multiple vehicle side impact collisions.
  • Seatbelt use, not frontal air bags, was associated with a reduced risk of brain injury after a crash.
  • Females were found to be at a higher risk for brain injuries. The study cites prior research suggesting that males may benefit from more neck strength thus sustaining less head movement, and better body position in the vehicle due to larger height and weight.
  • Doctors, nurses and emergency personnel who treat accident victims should ask about the direction of the crash and consider a side impact to be a high risk factor for serious brain injury, even if the patient shows no symptoms in the beginning.

Federal regulators have recently begun discussing new rules for side air bags, which are not available as standard features on most vehicles at this time. Consumers must shell out an additional $400 extra to have them installed. Collisions on the side of a vehicle cause 10,000 deaths each year in the U.S.

“We believe our study results are important for drivers, emergency responders, auto manufactors and legislators, who depend on accurate information about the risks associated with motor vehicle assidents, Bazarian says. “If the sides of cars can be made as safe as the front, many fatal and non fatal brain injuries could probably be prevented. Increasing the number of vehicles with side air bags that protect the head would be a huge step in the right direction.”

Bazarian and fellow researchers from the UR Department of Community and Preventive Medicine believe their analysis is the first population based study to find that a side impact crash is a high risk factor for a traumatic brain injury. The data came from real, valid accidents logged by the NHTSA, rather than from crash tests utilizing dummies. The difference is notable, Bazarian explains, because it’s hard to accurately simulate a brain injury in a dummy.

The data included 5,483 automobiles containing 6,780 occupants, but the analysis was generally restricted to the 1,115 people who were occupants of a vehicle in which at least one person was badly injured. Researchers accounted for factors such as vehicle type, seatbelt and air bag use, and alcohol or drug use by the driver.

A traumatic brain injury is defined as having symptoms such as; a loss of consciousness, amnesia or confusion at the time of injury, or any injury that results in a skull fracture (the side of the skull is thinner and less protective), or intracranial hemorrhaging. Head injuries can be mild to serious, and often produce long term health problems.

At Sam Harding Law Firm, we understand the problems sustained by people who have sustained Traumatic Brain Injuries from side impact accidents. We know that insurance companies often try to take advantage of unrepresented clients. We work hard to get our clients the money they deserve without their having to go to court. We work to get medical bills, lost income and money for pain and sustaining. However, should your case require us to litigate, we are prepared to take your case to court. We are an ABOTA and AV rated Martindale Hubbel law firm.

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