In a head-on collision, you could easily sustain a chest injury due to compression against the steering wheel or dashboard. A seat belt could also cause a chest injury.
The University of Michigan explains different types of chest injuries and how they can affect your health and well-being.
Minor chest injuries
In minor cases, bruising of the chest wall causes minimal damage that usually resolves on its own. While not considered significant in the long-term, these types of injuries can cause much discomfort. You may feel pain throughout your rib cage depending on the extent of the bruising. Pain and soreness may also accompany the movement of your arms and shoulders. Coughing, sneezing and even breathing could be very painful during recovery.
Rib fractures are more serious. Major jolts to the chest or compression of the area can actually break rib bones – sometimes many at once. It can also injure the cartilage between the bones. As a result, you may experience sharp, shooting pain, which increases when drawing a breath or lying down.
Severe chest injuries
Severe rib fractures can also damage your lungs and other organs. Your heart, kidneys and liver are at risk, depending on which area of the chest sustained an injury. Restricted breathing may occur if there is damage to the airways, while damage to the blood vessels can cause substantial internal bleeding. Should breathing difficulties occur after a major blow to the chest, seek immediate medical attention to prevent worsening effects.
Regardless of the level of pain you feel immediately following the accident, it is a good idea to go to the doctor and make sure there is no underlying damage that needs professional treatment.