Facts on Whiplash
- In a series of recent human volunteer crash tests of low speed rear impact collisions, it was reported that the threshold for cervical spine soft tissue injury was 5 mph (delta V).
- Other reports have shown that crashed cars can often withstand collision speeds of 10 mph or more without sustaining damage. Thus: the concept of “no crush, no cash” is simply not valid.
- Recent epidemiological studies have shown that most injury rear impact accidents occur at crash speeds of 6 mph to 12 mph –the majority at speeds below the threshold for property damage to the vehicle.
- A number of risk factors in rear impact accident injury have now been verified including: rear (vs. other vector) impact, loss of cervical lordotic curve, preexisting degenerative changes, the use of seat belts and shoulder harness, poor head restraint geometry, non-awareness of the impending collision, female gender, and head rotation at impact.
- Once thought to suggest minimal injury, a delay in onset of symptoms has been shown to be the norm, rather than the exception.
- Mild traumatic brain injury can result from whiplash trauma. Often the symptoms are referred as the postconcussion syndrome. This condition, often maligned in the past, has now been well-validated in recent medical literature.
- A recent outcome study of whiplash patients reported in the European Spine Journal found that between one and two years post injury, 22% of patients’ conditions deteriorated. This second wave of symptoms has been observed by others as well.
- Radanov et al. followed whiplash patients through time and reported that 45% remained symptomatic at 12 weeks, and 25% were symptomatic at 6 months. Other researchers have reported time to recovery in the most minor of cases at 8 weeks; time to stabilization in the more severe cases at 17 weeks; and time to plateau in the most severe categories as 20.5 weeks. Thus, the notion that whiplash injuries heal in 6-12 weeks is challenged. (Incidentally, there never has been any real support for this common myth.)
- Each year, 1.99 million Americans is injured in whiplash accidents.
- Of the 31 important whiplash outcome studies published since 1956 (19 published since 1990 pooling patients from all vectors of collision (i. e., rear, frontal, and side impacts), a mean of 40% still symptomatic is found. For rear impact only, a mean of 59% remain symptomatic at long- follow-up.
- Although estimates vary, about 10% of all whiplash victims becomes disabled.
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