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Home » Blog » Does Tensing up Before an Accident Help or Hurt?

Does Tensing up Before an Accident Help or Hurt?

Does Tensing up Before an Accident Help or Hurt?

man and woman in Tensing up Before an Accident

Most of us have heard both sides of the debate as to whether tensing up before an accident will help or hurt, but few of us have heard any real research to back up opinions. Further, you may also have heard that the inebriated person in a car accident usually comes out better as far as injuries, because he or she does not tense up or brace. So which is it—do you brace for impact, or let your body go limp?

Definitely Brace in an Airplane Crash

As far as airplane crashes, there is definitive proof to show that those who adopt a brace position (heads bent forward, feet planted on the floor) are much less likely to sustain severe head trauma regardless of where the passenger’s seat is located. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration has a long history of studying whether bracing hurts or helps. Since 1967, the FAA has been studying brace positions on crash test dummies, in an effort to determine the best brace position. Although the postures recommended in a place crash have changed slightly over the last five decades, the basic principles remain the same—lean forward, placing your head as close as possible to the seat directly in front of you—a body that is pressed against the back of the seat risks what is known as secondary impact—when the head snaps forward into an unyielding surface.

Further Reading: Programming a Navigation System While Driving More Dangerous Than Texting According to New Study

Less Time to Brace in a Car Accident

If your plane is about to crash you not only have more time to assume a bracing position, you are also fairly unlikely to survive the crash. In an auto accident, you generally have no warning of an impending crash—unless you look up into your rearview mirror and see a vehicle barreling toward you. You also have a much better chance of survival in an auto crash than in a plane crash. That being said, most of us will brace without actually thinking about it if we see a car headed for us. The safest crash position in an automobile will depend on the nature of the accident, as well as the overall design of your vehicle.

Victims of Head-On Collisions Brace Reflexively

One body of research found that over half of all victims of head-on collisions (probably reflexively) pressed their bodies and heads back against their seat, locking their arms against the dash or steering wheel. In this particular situation, these reflexive actions would definitely help protect the head and chest. Obviously, a head-on collision is quite different from being hit from the rear, which generally occurs at lower speeds. So, what should you do if you do if you see a car which is about to hit you in time to make the decision to brace or not?

Yes—Brace for Impact

According to one chiropractor, you should always brace for impact when you can. Those who brace tend to have fewer injuries and better long-term outcomes from those injuries. The theory is that we have lots of muscles in our neck which can potentially protect the ligaments, discs and nerves in the neck. If you remain relaxed, those ligaments, discs and nerves will take more of the force, resulting in more injury. Muscles tend to heal much faster and easier than ligaments, discs and nerves, so:

  • Brace your head against your car’s headrest (make sure your headrest is properly adjusted for your height).
  • Look forward, but don’t LEAN forward. Even the slightest turn of your head at the time of impact will likely increase your level of injury.
  • Push your back hard against the back of the seat, and push your foot against the brake pedal.
  • Tense your body as though you were about to be punched in the back (by a 3,500- pound vehicle).
  • Even if you think you are “fine” after the accident, see a doctor for a full evaluation. Your body is flooded with adrenaline at the time of an accident, and this adrenaline can mask injury symptoms.

Contact Our Experienced Broomfield Personal Injury Lawyers

Northglenn personal injury lawyers of Hull & Zimmerman, P.C.If you are properly seat-belted in your vehicle, your car has airbags, and you brace for impact, you stand a much better chance of sustaining fewer injuries. If you find you have suffered injury from a negligent driver’s actions, contact an experienced Colorado personal injury attorney as quickly as possible. At Hull & Zimmerman, P.C., our committed personal injury lawyers are dedicated to the belief that everyone deserves justice. Contact us at (303) 423-1770 or (866) 385-3505.



At Hull & Zimmerman, P.C., we are honored to help accident victims in their time of need, and take our responsibility as personal injury lawyers incredibly seriously. We know how important it is for victims to secure the full and fair compensation they need following a serious accident, and that is why we take a hands-on, personalized approach to every case we handle.

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