Seatbelts Save Lives – Increase Injury

Seatbelts Increase The Risk Of Auto Injury

Seatbelts increase risk of injuryIt is common knowledge that seatbelts save lives! Yet less commonly discussed are the other injuries associated with wearing a seat belt. These injuries range from moderate to severe and include:

  • Neck injury
  • Shoulder injury
  • Abdominal injury
  • Cervical (neck) spine fractures
  • Sternum & rib fractures
  • Rupture of breast implants
  • Damage to blood vessels in the neck

In most of the seatbelt injuries, the cause is basically the same. As the occupant is thrown forward the shoulder harness engages abruptly stopping the forward motion and compresses the individual’s shoulder, chest and abdomen.  At this point, the shoulder harness acts as a pivot and the upper body and neck continues moving forward by rotating to the side of the high point of the shoulder belt. For instance, the driver would rapidly pivot to their left towards the door and a passenger would rotate to the right.  In some cases, the occupant may actually “submarine” under the lap belt causing further compression on the abdomen and pelvis.


While severe injuries such as fractures are not typical, there are much more common injuries frequently seen in our patients. They include: increased injury to the lower neck, shoulder and mid-back.

Neck Injury

Neck injury happens when the sudden pivoting of the head and neck causes a torque of the spinal bones (vertebra) of the lower neck. This compression and torque results in damage to the various small ligaments around the vertebra resulting in a loss of their normal alignment and mobility. The altered mechanics then cause inflammation, muscle spasms and neck pain!

This type of injury can result in a host of different symptoms, some of which are:

  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Headache
  • Pain, numbness or tingling down the arms

Shoulder Injury

When the seat belt engages, the sudden stop can cause a compression of the clavicle (collar bone) damaging the ligaments of the AC joint (acromio-clavicular joint). These then result in a shoulder impingement syndrome or AC separation – both of which cause shoulder pain.

Common symptoms experienced with this type of injury include:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Shoulder stiffness
  • Unable to lift the arm
  • Pain into the arm

Mid-back Injury

The cause of a mid-back injury is basically the same in that as the chest is compressed and rotates over the shoulder belt it can cause damage to the ligaments around the spinal bones in the mid-back. The resulting inflammation and muscle spasms are followed by pain.

Common symptoms associated with a mid-back injury include:

  • Mid-back pain
  • Chest pain
  • Pain on breathing
  • Pain with bending or twisting

So, while seatbelts save many lives, in many instances they can cause other injuries. If you have experienced an auto accident, you owe it to yourself to get checked out.

Dr. Martin Schmaltz has years of experience treating those injured in car wrecks. He is located in North St Louis County and convenient to reach from Florissant, Hazelwood, Bridgeton, Berkeley, Overland and Spanish Lakes. Call and schedule today, (314) 731-4383, ask for Dr. Martin.