Studies have shown that in people injured in a road traffic crash, persistent symptoms are common and can lead to significant ongoing personal impact. Hence, elucidating factors associated with the human costs are key to reducing the socio-economic burden of road traffic injuries. Therefore, in this study we aimed to track the experience and key outcomes of persons who had sustained mild/moderate injuries as they returned to health (and work, where relevant) following a road traffic crash.
It is an inception study cohort of adults who had sustained mild to moderate injuries (that is, except serious injuries) in motor vehicle crashes in New South Wales, Australia, who were recruited and interviewed at baseline (within 3 months of the crash) and at 6, 12 and 24 months post-injury. We found that minor injuries had major impacts on pain ratings, physical and mental well-being, health-related quality of life and return to work and pre-injury participation during the 24 months post-injury phase. Further, for mild to moderately severe injuries, biopsychosocial factors appear to be prognostic indicators of recovery (not the location or type of injury). Examples of key biopsychosocial factors are: age; preinjury health; quality of life; reactions to injury (catastrophising, and pain); social support and the third party insurance compensation system.
This study highlights the considerable impact of apparently “minor” road traffic crash injuries at a population level and suggests targeted approaches to the tertiary prevention of long-term morbidity and disability. Study findings have also reiterated the importance of looking beyond the injury to the ‘whole person’.