ZocdocAnswersIs it possible to get a concussion from a car crash without actually hitting your head?

Question

Is it possible to get a concussion from a car crash without actually hitting your head?

Yesterday I was stopped at a red light and the woman who hit me smashed the back of my car in. She hit me hard enough to spill the contents of my mug all over my seats and throw everything in my car all over the place. My body just kind of jerked forward and then back, I had my seatbelt on so I didn't hit my head. My hands were shaking so bad after the crash that it took me 4 times to dial 911. The shaking didn't last more than half an hour, but then I started getting headaches and neckpain and pain on both sides of my jaw later on in the day. I took Tylenol this morning but it didn't make a difference. The last time I was in a car crash my head actually hit the steering wheel so I got a concussion and neck injuries. This time my head didn't hit anything, but it still hurts... So is it possible to get a concussion from a car crash without actually hitting your head?

Answer

Concussions are caused by trauma to the brain, and it is important for you to make an appointment to see your doctor in order to address your continued headache. He or she will need to obtain a more complete history, perform a physical exam, and run any tests that are indicated. Having said that, concussions can absolutely occur even without direct trauma to the skull. The brain sits in a bed of fluid within the cranium. It can move within this fluid, and with rapid head movements (such as rapid accelerations or decelerations that occur in a motor vehicle accident), the brain can crash into the inner aspect of the skull, causing brain cell damage, and even brain bruising and bleeding. It does sound as though you may have suffered a concussion from this motor vehicle accident and the subsequent acceleration/deceleration of your head following being rear-ended. Post-concussive headaches are very common, and other symptoms of what is called post-concussive syndrome can include insomnia, difficulty concentrating, nausea and vomiting, and mood changes. Although there is no specific treatment for concussions themselves, the symptoms can be treated with agents that can reduce headache, nausea, and can be used to treat sleep, and mood changes. However, it will be important for you to be fully evaluated by your doctor. The most dangerous complication of a concussion is a bleed within the brain. If you have any neurologic findings on exam, this could indicate such a bleed, and you may require a head CT to determine if this is occurring.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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