If you experience a car crash, one of the first things you may do following the crash is make sure no one was injured. However, some serous injuries can be deceiving. For example, someone could have a spinal cord injury (SCI), even though he or she may not show symptoms right away.

A SCI can occur if damage occurs to the bundle of nerves that make up the spinal cord or if damage occurs to the vertebrae, ligaments or disks in the spinal column. More SCIs are caused by car crashes than by anything else. Because a car crash can happen at any time, it can be valuable to know what a SCI might look like.

What symptoms could appear?

Although most people associate SCIs with paralysis, this symptom is not the only possible symptom. Some symptoms of a SCI may include:

  • Altered sensations
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Spasms
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Extreme pain or pressure in the neck, head or back
  • Difficulty balancing

Why might symptoms not appear right away?

Symptoms can appear right away. Symptoms could also develop over time as the injured person moves around or as bleeding or swelling occurs within his or her body. Because symptoms may not always be apparent, it is often safest to assume that anyone who has experienced trauma to the head, back or neck could have a SCI. This assumption could prevent further complications if there actually is a SCI, but it is unlikely to cause harm if medical professionals can rule out this injury.

If you think there is a chance you or someone else could have a SCI, it is best to call 911 right away and keep the injured person still. It may be possible for an uninjured person to place towels on either side of the injured person’s neck to help prevent movement. Minimizing movement can prevent the injury from becoming worse.

Often, doctors cannot undo the damage that occurs to a spinal cord, but they may be able to prevent other damage from occurring. Life with a SCI can require many changes, some of which can be costly. However, if you or a loved one experience an SCI because of someone else’s negligence, you may be able to receive financial compensation. This compensation can help cover the cost of medical expenses and other costs associated with the injury.