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Hip Injuries & Car Accidents

by Nik Donovik

With thousands of car accidents occurring each day, throughout the U.S., drivers and passengers are sent to emergency rooms for various injuries from head to toe. While some accident victims are fortunate enough to walk away unscathed, many don’t feel the pain of an injury until after the shock is gone. “You may believe you are unharmed after a crash. However, some types of injuries cannot be visually detected,” says DSS Law. Because of this, it is important to take the time to evaluate yourself and others if you are involved in any type of car accident and accept any medical care offered.

Frontal Impact Crashes

Frontal impact crashes occur when the frontal plane of the car is struck, anywhere between “10 and 2 o’clock” (using the “12 o’clock” as the front and center point of reference). Frontal crashes result when a car crosses the center line or when striking a barrier or object. Despite the other types of crashes that occur, such as side or rear impact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 53% of accident deaths in 2013 were due to frontal impact crashes.

Fortunately, not every frontal crash results in a fatality, however, the injuries sustained can be serious and lifechanging. Common injuries sustained in frontal impact accidents include injury to the abdomen, chest, head, pelvis, and the most common, lower extremity (hips, thighs and knees). Experts believe that lower extremity injuries are more common than they were decades ago due to factors such as safer upper body restraints and the extra weight that many drivers and passengers carry on their bodies (obesity) which can put strain on lower extremities in the event of a crash.

Common Lower Extremity Injury

When a frontal impact crash occurs, a passenger’s upper body is restrained if seat belts are in use. While the chest and abdomen are prevented from jerking forward as a result of the impact, an individual’s knees are prone to serious injury after it strikes the knee bolster (lower dashboard area), steering wheel or steering column. The impact causes the trauma to the knee to travel to the femur and up to the hip, causing a common knee-thigh-hip (KTH) injury or fracture. Due to the complexity of the injury, many individuals must undergo surgery and physical therapy, which can extend the recovery time after a car accident. While KTH injuries are not life-threatening they are often long lasting and injury sufferers may never regain full function of the knee, thigh, and/or hip.

Can a KTH Injury Be Prevented?

Frontal impact crashes are difficult to avoid and even harder to predict as they happen quickly, similarly to other types of car accidents. Car makers designing all vehicles to have knee air bags may be the best way to prevent and lessen the severity of a KTH injury. Knee airbags are designed to minimize lower extremity injuries to the driver and front seat passenger and are located beneath the steering column and below the glovebox on the dashboard.

While it’s important to drive a car equipped with airbags located throughout the car, consider owning a vehicle that has knee airbags.