Neck sprains or strains, also known as whiplash, are one of the most commonly reported injuries after an auto accident. In fact, 57% or more of people who make insurance claims after an accident report minor neck injuries.
The term whiplash encompasses both muscle strain and tearing of the soft tissue. In more serious cases of whiplash, there can be damage to the nerves, discs and ruptures to ligaments or even neck fractures.
Whiplash injuries are most often sustained after a rear-impact accident. This is because, when a vehicle is hit from the rear it accelerates forwards but the head often whips forward more than the torso causing an injury to the neck. Researches hypothesize that even in slight hyperextension of the neck can cause nerve damage.
The severity of the injury is affected my many factors. The height of the person is one factor. Head restraints, if not at the correct height, fail to protect the person. It is important that head restraints are adjusted to match a person’s height.
Gender is also a factor in who sustains a whiplash injury in a car accident. Females are 1.8 to 2.2 times at risk for a whiplash injury. One hypothesis for the reason is that males have more developed neck muscles than females.
Where a person is sitting in the vehicle also raises or diminishes ones risk of a neck injury in a rear end car accident. Drivers are more at risk for whiplash than passengers. One reason for this might be is that passengers tend to be more relaxed in the seat and seated less prone than drivers.
The importance of adjusting the head rest
Because head restraints are so important in preventing whiplash and neck injuries, everyone should make sure their head restraints are adjusted properly. I came across this really common sense video on the importance of adjusting a head rest by Eric The Car Guy. Eric posted this video after he was an a car accident and suffered a sore neck. Check with your own vehicle’s owner’s manual on tips on how to adjust the head rest in your car.