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Factors that Affect a Whiplash Injury

First, what is whiplash injury? It is an injury to your neck typically occurring as a result of a car accident. The greatest risk of experiencing this injury is when your car is hit from behind – a rear impact. Rarely, it could happen from being roughly shaken or as the result of a sports injury or a fall. It happens when your head is abruptly forced forward or backward and is then quickly forced in the opposite direction. Your head is essentially “whipped” back and forth. This sudden, forced motion can possibly cause injury to discs, joints, vertebrae, ligaments, nerve roots, and the spinal cord in the neck area of your spine known as your cervical spine.

The cervical spine has an inherent stabilization response that will help protect it from a possible whiplash injury. The way the stabilization response works is that the nervous system will detect the probability of the impact. In response to the nervous system, the cervical spine muscles will quickly contract in order lessen the effects of the impact.

Posture at time of impact – Sitting with correct posture will help promote the effectiveness of the stabilization response which will determine the extent of injury to the cervical spine.

Posture at time of impact – Sitting with correct posture will help promote the effectiveness of the stabilization response which will determine the extent of injury to the cervical spine.

Overall physical condition – A patient who is in good, overall physical condition will generally have a better stabilization response; particularly if they have a well-functioning nervous system.

Awareness of impact – If you are aware of the coming impact, you will have time to automatically prepare and respond quickly. This is possibly the most important factor. Studies have shown that passengers are more likely to sustain a whiplash injury than drivers. It is suggested that drivers are more likely to see the other vehicle approaching in their rear view mirror.

Gender – Women typically experience this injury more often and more seriously than men due to the fact that women are less musculature and have smaller structures.

Age – People over the age of 65 generally have a slower stabilization response.

Size and condition of the car – Occupants of small cars with head restraints that are more than 2 inches from their heads are more likely to experience a whiplash injury.

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