We are often asked why the neck is so vulnerable to injury in a MVC. The simple answer is the head, which weighs about 12-15 pounds (~5-7 kg), is supported by the neck and not all necks have the same length, strength, and mass. This is the reason women (especially those with longer, thin necks) are most vulnerable to the forces that occur in a WAD injury. Another reason whiplash injury can occur is the relatively “slow” speed at which we can voluntarily contract our muscles (>600 msec.) vs. relatively fast speed at which a typical rear-end collision takes to move the head on the neck during whiplash (~300 msec.)! Though the whiplash time duration will vary somewhat, depending on the speed of the collision, angle of the seat back, the distance between the head and the headrest, the “springiness” of the seat back, the weight of the two vehicles, the slipperiness of the road, if the brakes are locked, (…AND MORE!), here’s a typical breakdown of what takes place in a rear-end collision (within a 300 millisecond “typical” time frame):
The degree of injury is affected by all the items previously listed above and more. For example, if the headrest is more than two inches (~5 cm) away from the back of the head, and/or if “ramping” occurs and the head “misses” the headrest, hyper-extension can result and the soft tissues in the front of the neck can become over-stretched and/or the back of the neck can become over-compressed. Or if the rebound phase into flexion exceeds the tissue capacities, the back part of the neck can become over-stretched and the front part over-compressed.
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Content Courtesy of Chiro-Trust.org. All Rights Reserved.