Objective: Details on airbag injuries to the upper extremity are relatively unknown to clinicians. The injuries presented here should provide a clear understanding of the mechanisms of forearm, hand, and wrist injuries that may be seen by emergency room physicians.
Materials and methods: From our crash investigations of 325 airbag-equipped passenger cars, a subset of upper extremity injuries are presented that are related to airbag deployments.
Main results: Minor hand, wrist, or forearm injuries--contusions, abrasions, and sprains--are not uncommonly reported. Infrequently, hand fractures have been sustained and, in isolated cases, fractures of the forearm bones or of the thumb, wrist, and fingers. The close proximity of the forearm to the airbag module door is related to most of the fractures identified. Steering wheel airbag deployments can fling the hand-forearm into the instrument panel, rearview mirror, or windshield, as indicated by contact scuffs, tissue debris, or the star burst (spider web) pattern of windshield breakage in fron of the steering wheel.
Conclusion: Minor injuries of the upper extremity can occur when contacted by the deploying airbag either directly or by flinging the hand-forearm into interior car structures. Fractures of the forearm are rare and usually are due to direct impact by the forceful opening of the airbag module door.