Frequently Asked Questions

Understanding Neck and Back Injuries

What are some of the contributing factors of neck and back injuries in collisions?

Those caught totally unaware of an impending collision are considerably more likely to suffer neck or other soft tissue injuries than those who have a moment to prepare for a collision. Positioning of the head also plays a roll – looking to the side or down increases asymmetrical forces and increases risk of neck injury.

Seatbelt use also increases the risk of minor and moderate neck injuries. Other factors to consider include whether the person struck any surface of the vehicle during impact, whether the seat was damaged and the site of impact as side collisions can produce more severe injuries.

Did you know the force involved in a whiplash injury is considerable?

At an impact speed of 20 mph, the human head reaches a peak acceleration of 12 g’s – four times more than the 3 g’s typically felt by the occupants of a rollercoaster.

When might an injured person feel the onset of symptoms?

Often there are no significant symptoms at the scene of the crash but the injured person becomes aware of pain or other symptoms by evening. The next morning they may hardly be able to move and ultimately they seek medical attention.

What are some of the disorders/symptoms associated with whiplash?

Whiplash can result in pain throughout the head, neck and back, including neck pain, difficulty swallowing, TMJ (jaw) dysfunction, dizziness, vertigo, ringing ears, muscle pain, headaches, neck, arm and upper torso pain, low back pain, facet syndrome (pain related to traumatized spine), and bulging discs.

What is the prognosis for long-term recovery?

A study of 35 patients presenting with soft tissue injuries of the cervical spine found symptoms persisted in 86 percent after more than 10 years and were intrusive or worse in 23 percent of the cases.

And degenerative or worsening changes occurred significantly more frequently in patients who had sustained soft tissue damage than in those in the controlled population who had not.

What are the factors impacting prognosis?

In one study, people who were unaware of the impending collision were 15 times more likely to have a persisting condition than those who were aware.

Other factors that can adversely affect prognosis include stiffness of the neck, muscle spasms and age – older people are more susceptible to injury.

What impact does speed or severity of crash have on injury?

There is only minimal connection of a poor prognosis for recovery based on the speed and severity of the collision and the extent of vehicle damage.

A substantial number of injuries are reported in crashes of little or no property damage. Property damage is an unreliable predictor of injury risk or outcome in low velocity crashes.

The preceding is not legal or medical advice and does not take the place of a professional consultation with a trained lawyer or physician. If you think you have been hurt, please seek medical attention. If you think you might need the help of an attorney, please contact a qualified professional like those at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured.

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