Save your Neck or your Car?
By Dr. Todd N. Grant
(Chiropractic Physician, certified in motor vehicle occupant injuries)
Trailer hitches: should you keep them on or take them off?
Ultimately, it depends on whether you would like to save your neck or your car.
In today’s work, it is likely that your trailer hitch is removable. The short square pipe containing a trailer hitch ball at the other end often goes into a receiver that is built into your truck or car.
Many people choose to leave the ball and hitch attached, even without the necessity of attaching a trailer, in the hopes of protecting their vehicle in case someone rear ends them or they back into something they don’t see.
This is a bad idea. Why? Unlike other areas of your car, your trailer hitch has no crush zones built into it. In fact, having a trailer hitch on the back of your vehicle makes the outcome worse if you do get hit from behind.
In normal circumstances, your bumper and the side panels of your car have crush zones built in. These serve to slow down and mitigate the impact in order to protect the occupants of the vehicle. When your trailer hitch is sticking out beyond the end of your car, the intended crush zones are much less effective. They aren’t able to spread force throughout the vehicle, so the impact is much like connecting your neck directly with the trailer hitch. The force directly impacts the areas of the neck and spine. Without the hitch attached, crumple zones cushion the hit like a shock absorber in order to soften the blow. You may still get hurt, but likely not as severely.
Some neck injuries become permanent, which can leave you with lifelong pain. It is important to do everything in your power to prevent injuries, with steps like taking the trailer hitch out of the receiver.
What’s the bottom line? It is better to put your hitch away when it is not in use in order to enable the crush zones to operate effectively. You can replace the bumper or fender of your vehicle, but you can’t replace your neck. We can help you with your neck pain, but it is far better to prevent, or at least diminish, the injury in the first place.
Citings: Spine Research Institute of San Diego, Personal Injury Training Institute.