Airbags Could Cause Foot, Ankle Trauma

By: Lauren Woods

The importance of airbag in vehicles is given greater emphasis when road fatalities soared and the figures became alarming that the said auto feature was deemed indispensable. The feature became increasingly popular because of its all-positive offers. However, in a recent study, it was found that airbags could be the cause of foot and ankle trauma.

Members of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) said that they have noticed a significant increase in traumatic foot and ankle injuries among patients who survived auto accidents. And the cause - airbags!

The federal government initiated the imposition of dual front airbags requirement in passenger cars in the year 1998. Since then, a number of studies have been conducted to know whether airbags are responsible for the increasing lower extremity injuries. According to a federal report, drivers in air bag equipped cars suffer more than 17,600 lower extremity injuries every year. One-third of those are to the foot and ankle. The trauma though is not life threatening. It may just result to limited mobility that the affected individual may necessitate months or years of rehabilitation and physical therapy. It may also lead to multiple surgeries.

"We see trauma we never saw before," said ACFAS President James L. Thomas, DPM, FACFAS who is also a foot and ankle trauma surgeon at the University of Alabama, Birmingham Hospital. "A decade ago, these patients would have died from head trauma or other upper body injuries. Now, thanks to seat belts and air bags, they survive."

Thomas added, i>

At the ACFAS Annual Scientific Conference, surgeons discussed less-invasive techniques for treating traumatic injuries received in motor vehicle crashes and other incidents. The common technique used by surgeons is the use of internal or external fixation devices. These devices immobilize the foot and ankle, just like a cast. Internal fixation devices uses a series of rods, screws and plates attached to bones, stabilize them to allow proper healing.

Jerry Cremeans, a Lincoln County High School automotive teacher, is educating his students about the power of airbags. He said all drivers, especially younger drivers, need to be aware of the powerful force they sit behind every day.

Cremeans added that airbags explode at 175 mph to 200 mph. He noted that if car occupants are not positioned properly, an airbag can be extremely dangerous, even deadly. But he said airbags have saved more lives than they have hurt. He added that as long as drivers are educated, an airbag is a life-saving tool.

Cremeans said drivers need to position themselves at least 10 inches away from the steering wheel, in order for the airbag to work properly. "I'm trying to make this to where everybody gets a little bit of knowledge of what's in front of you when you sit down at that wheel or passenger side," Cremeans concluded.

Basically, the auto knowledge should not only revolve around engines, radiators and but should include safety and protection.

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