Why Is Whiplash So Dangerous?

Surprisingly, many people are unaware of the serious risks associated with a whiplash injury. Whiplash victims may not seek initial treatment of their pain; however, early diagnosis and treatment can greatly reduce the pain caused by whiplash, and help detect more serious, underlying effects that may develop.

Pain and other symptoms caused by whiplash injury do not always appear immediately, especially when the crash occurs at low speed. The severity and duration cannot always be predicted by the amount of damage to a vehicle because the G force on the occupants is greater than the force of impact on the vehicle. In fact, symptoms may not appear for weeks or months. Focusing more on the visible amount of damage to a vehicle, or the seemingly minor force of people colliding directly, can be a dangerous assumption that ends in serious loss of quality of life of the victim.

Automobile collisions are not the only way whiplash injuries happen. They can result from sports-related collisions, such as football players being tackled, and baseball or soccer players running into each other. Incidents of being shaken, such as in shaken-baby syndrome, or of being punched can also result in serious injury.

Whiplash refers to injuries resulting from the head being suddenly thrust backward and then forward, or from side to side. This motion strains the neck’s muscles and ligaments. The same motion can also cause serious neck strain without the victim colliding into another person or object. Headaches, as well as shoulder, neck, and back pain are the most common symptoms resulting from this type of injury. Others include numbness and nausea. Although they may not manifest for several days or weeks after the impact, and usually subside within a similarly brief period, there are cases where only slight symptoms resulted in serious consequences long after the injury occurred.

Consider the 2008 injury of Robert Bright, a British businessman who suffered a serious stroke five weeks after a minor crash in standstill traffic. He thought the neck pain and headaches would heal on their own, but the damage split the main artery that supplies blood to the brain and caused a blood clot to form. He lost the full use of his left arm. As Mr. Bright said, “I would urge anyone who has the symptoms to be aware of the risks and not be afraid to get checked out.”


1. http://www.chiro.org/LINKS/FULL/Whiplash_A_Medical_Doctor_s_Review_of_the_Literature.html
2. http://www.standard.co.uk/news/health/2-million-payout-for-businessman-who-had-stroke-34-days-after-whiplash-crash-8375266.html#!
3. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/whiplash/DS01037/DSECTION=complications
4. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/pain-management-whiplash
5. http://www.southsidechiroclinic.com/blog/2013/02/25/dangers-of-untreated-whiplash/