Car accidents are a leading cause of serious injury in the U.S. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traffic crashes injure approximately three million Americans every single year. Motor vehicle accidents are also inherently stressful events.
To help you cope with the stress of a car accident, your brain prepares your body to either fight off danger or right away from it. This automatic stress response may also mask injury symptoms, potentially causing you not to realize immediately you have sustained a serious injury.
The release of stress hormones
During a crash, your brain is likely to activate its sympathetic nervous system. This system then triggers your adrenal system to release stress hormones. Adrenaline, epinephrine and norepinephrine increase awareness and impair pain receptors.
Consequently, because of post-accident stress hormones in your system, you may not feel the pain of a traumatic brain injury, whiplash, broken bones or catastrophic internal injuries until hours or even days after the collision.
An increase in heart rate
When your brain takes over stress management during a car accident, it tells your heart to beat faster. An increase in heart rate helps to flood your muscles with oxygen-rich blood. As a result, you may experience abnormal strength for a few minutes.
Due to an increase in oxygen, damaged muscles may perform normally or even better than normal. Therefore, even if you can move after a collision, you may have sustained an injury to muscular tissue or other body parts.
Ultimately, because of your body’s stress response, the only way you can know whether you have suffered an injury in a car crash is to seek immediate medical care.