Acceleration, Deceleration & Whiplash
By far, the most common injury resulting from motor vehicle accidents is whiplash (80% of car crash injuries). Whiplash is a cervical (neck) injury that is caused when the head is thrown either backward by acceleration or forward by deceleration. The acceleration or deceleration in car accidents is typically abrupt, which will cause the head to jerk and be stretched beyond its normal range of motion, straining the muscles and ligaments of the neck. Extreme cases of whiplash can even cause fractures to the neck vertebrae. Although a full recovery is likely, these injuries are incredibly painful and may necessitate prolonged time off of work and activity to recover.
Whiplash can occur at nearly any speed—even when vehicles are traveling as slowly as 25 mph!
The Extent of Damage from Whiplash Injuries
Most commonly, whiplash is the result of a rear-end automobile collision, rather than a side impact or head-on collision, although that is possible. In the event of a car accident, kinetic energy will keep the bodies in the car moving forward. Due to restraints such as seat belts, the body will be stopped while the head will continue to be thrown backward. This unnatural movement of the neck commonly results in hypertension injuries. Depending on the severity of the impact and how fast both vehicles were traveling, the extent of the whiplash will differ.
The most severe whiplash injuries will cause traumatic brain injuries. A doctor will examine whiplash patients in a physical exam. In severe cases, doctors might monitor brain function to ascertain whether or not there was damage.
With acceleration/deceleration injuries, the brain may swell and cause bruising and bleeding. This can be potentially life-threatening.
Diagnosing a Cervical Acceleration / Deceleration (CAD) Injury
Cervical acceleration/deceleration injuries most commonly result in trauma to the deep anterior neck muscles. When a muscle is "strained," it is slightly torn. When a ligament is "sprained," it is stretched or torn. This can be incredibly painful, as the ligaments in the neck are responsible for maintaining a comfortable curve of the neck. Most neck injuries of this nature will involve micro-tears, but more serious hypertension will result in larger tears and even fractures. Many car accident victims, even after healing, will experience what is known as "myospasm." This symptom involves the sudden contraction of the neck muscles. These spasms can often be painful.
Whiplash Sustained in a Front Impact Crash
Front-impact crashes have a higher risk of severe injury and death. Whiplash resulting from a head-on collision can cause damage to the upper cervical spine and hyperextension. The severe strain of this nature can leave a victim suffering from tension headaches, migraines, and even vision problems for some time even after the neck has healed. The extent of the injuries can also depend on what type of vehicle the individual was traveling in. The size of both vehicles can have a tremendous impact on both the nature and severity of the injuries. Airbags are required in vehicles for safety purposes, but they can cause additional injuries due to their impact when deployed.
Is Whiplash A Serious Injury?
Yes. While it is sometimes joked about after an accident, whiplash is an injury that can have lifelong repercussions for a person.
Are Whiplash Symptoms Immediate & Obvious?
Whiplash symptoms are different from person to person and accident to accident. Sometimes, the effects of whiplash are immediately obvious after an accident. In other instances, a person might not realize they’ve suffered a whiplash injury until days—or even weeks—after their accident.
Should I See a Doctor If I Think I Have Whiplash?
Absolutely. Seeing a doctor can be useful for more than just your recovery. Medical attention creates an early record of your injury and can help create a stronger case if you decide to pursue the other party with a personal injury lawsuit. A person should always go to the doctor after being in an accident, even if they do think they are injured.
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If you or a loved one were involved in a car accident, then you may be suffering from the painful side effects of whiplash and cervical spine injuries. To learn more about your options, please contact our firm today!