Do your genes play a role in car accidents?

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Victims of Tennessee car accidents typically suffer a variety of injuries. Many can be obvious injuries such as broken bones or lacerations, and others are more difficult to identify, such as back or neck pain. Too often, these less obvious injuries are dismissed by a skeptical public who believe that these non-visible injuries are simply made up by victims.

There is an unfortunate stigma attached to car accident victims who often struggle with persistent pain that cannot be seen. People may think that a person describing the serious pain in their back or neck is making an injury sound worse than it is. However, new research suggests many of these victims may actually be genetically predisposed to feel more intense pain after a car accident.

This information was generated by two separate studies that explored data from 948 car accident victims. One study looked at how dopamine, which helps regulate pain processing, affects a person after an accident. The second study focused on how the each person’s body used a hormonal system to cope with the stress associated with a car accident.

In terms of the dopamine, researchers determined that genetic deviations in a person’s dopamine receptor can affect the level of pain a person feels immediately after an accident. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that sends signals between nerve cells in the brain and releases chemicals that allow people to feel pleasure. A person who may already have a disturbance of dopamine production may feel pain much differently after a car accident than a person who does not.

The second study suggests that a gene variant related to the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis, which is a hormonal system, may cause car crash victims to feel much more significant pain in their neck as well as overall greater pain levels.

While this research is still in the very early stages, it brings up an important topic. In a car accident, it is possible that a person’s genetics can seriously affect how much pain they feel and how long they will experience that pain. Just because a person is suffering from more significant pain than other victims, or feels that pain for a longer period of time, does not mean that their injuries should not be taken seriously.

Source: philly.com, “Pain Level After Car Crash Could Depend on Your Genes, Studies Say,” Maureen Salamon, Oct. 16, 2012