The Continued Burden of Spine Fractures After Motor Vehicle Crashes

This study analyzed trends in spinal injury sustained from car accidents and evaluated the protective effects of air bags and seat belts. Findings show that while spine fractures increased during the study period, using both seat belts and air bags protects against such injuries.

Motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) are a major cause of spinal injury in the United States. Public health interventions to reduce injuries sustained from MVCs have led to more automobiles with air bags and the increased use of seat belts. This study tracked spinal fractures associated with MVCs and evaluated the association between air bag and seat belt use with spine fractures. Researchers used the Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (1994 to 2002), Wisconsin’s database linking police reports and hospital records, to study these patterns.

Key Findings:

  • Over the study period, spine fractures, use of a seat belt plus air bag and use of air bags alone increased.
  • Use of both seat belt and air bag was associated with decreased odds of a spine fracture.
  • Use of an air bag alone was associated with increased odds of a severe thoracic, but not cervical spine fracture.

The use of both seat belt and air bag is protective against spine fractures. Given these significant protective effects, resources should continue to be dedicated toward increasing their use.