Whiplash is a common injury following a rear-end collision

In 2013, there were more than 33,000 injuries from motor vehicle accidents in Oklahoma. It can be estimated that nearly a third of these injuries likely involved whiplash, a type of injury caused by sudden, traumatic motion of the head and neck. This sudden motion can strain or tear ligaments, muscles and tendons of the upper spine, usually in the neck. Sometimes, there is nerve damage or fractured vertebrae.

Whiplash typically results in pain and stiffness of the neck. In more than two-thirds of patients, it also causes headaches, often at the base of the skull. There may also be pain and stiffness in the upper back, shoulders, arms and upper chest. Other potential symptoms include dizziness, vertigo, ringing in the ears, trouble swallowing, fatigue, nausea, difficulty concentrating and blurred vision.

Despite appearances, this is not a minor injury. A combination of physical limitations and neurological problems make this a serious injury that can harm one's ability to work and one's fundamental quality of life. In some cases, symptoms may persist for months or years, even with on-going physical therapy or other medical care, and can be debilitating.

There is no way to prevent whiplash. Proper restraints and a properly adjusted headrest can limit the damage but does not prevent a whiplash injury. Because it is quite common for symptoms to not appear until two to 48 hours after the accident, anyone who has been hit by another car should immediately see a doctor and file a police report. Prompt treatment can improve one's prognosis. It can also establish an important record should the accident lead to a lawsuit.

Source: Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, "Oklahoma Crash Facts 2013," August 2014

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