Unfortunately, yes, a car crash can paralyze you, leaving you dependent on a wheelchair as your only means of mobility
The Mayo Clinic explains that if you injure your neck or back in a car crash or other catastrophic event, you can lose partial or all voluntary movement and sensation below your point of injury.
Spinal cord anatomy
Your spinal cord consists of a column of nerve tissue running from the base of your skull down the center of your back. It represents the communication channel between your brain and the rest of your body. When you break one of the 33 vertebrae surrounding your spinal cord, this, at best, puts pressure on the cord. At worst, it completely severs it. The most common spinal cord injuries resulting from a car crash include the following:
- An injury to one of the seven cervical vertebrae in your neck
- An injury to one of the 12 thoracic vertebrae between your neck and waist
- An injury to one of the five lumbar vertebrae in your lower back
Paraplegia versus quadriplegia
Should you injure one of your lumbar or lower thoracic vertebrae in your car crash, the result is paraplegia. The paralysis affects your legs, feet and possibly your pelvic region. Not only can you no longer stand or walk, but you may also lose control of your bowel and bladder functions.
Should you injure one of your cervical or upper thoracic vertebrae in your car crash, the result is quadriplegia. This affects all four of your limbs, as well as most of your torso. You consequently will require others to provide you with all your daily needs and functions.