Traffic accidents are a daily phenomenon. Unfortunately, each year a significant number of Americans suffer from injuries sustained during those accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) there were more than 2.2 million injuries in 2009.1
Spinal injury is a primary concern with any type of bodily impact. You or a loved one may have undergone the extensive physical exams and diagnostic tests following an accident to rule out any immediate dangers. However, experience has shown that symptoms, including those of whiplash, can appear or worsen during those first few days after a collision.2
Whiplash is a common term but is complex in its definition. According to the North American Spine Society, the term can be confusing because of its association with both the mechanism of injury and the symptoms of injury.3 Injury to muscles, ligaments, facet joints, and the disc can all contribute to development of pain.
Technology has taken hold of most industries including the automobile industry. Your television programming is flooded with commercials that compare various automobile makes and models. Family and friends are of utmost importance so the commercials highlighting safety features catch our attention. Companies such as Volvo, Jaguar, Toyota, and Mercedes, to name a few, have begun to use various whiplash prevention devices in their designs. A recent study evaluating cervical spine curvature during rear crashes and energy absorbing seats, the whiplash protection system (WHIPS), with a fixed head restraint (HR) found that the WHIPS system significantly reduced the risk of neck injury.4
An automobile accident can be devastating not only physically but also financially. In addition to costs for vehicle replacement or repair, there are associated costs for needed medical exams and diagnostics. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention conducted an analysis of the costs accrued in 2005, concluding that the total medical and lost productivity costs of motor vehicle injuries were $99 billion including $28 billion for nonfatal hospitalized injuries and $14 billion for injuries treated in the emergency room.6 It is the hope that advanced safety features will assist in reducing these costs over time.
Further research is needed on the topic of spine health and safety devices. A review of the literature shows that there has been a lack of large, quality studies conducted in the last 25 years. 5 This lack of substantial research has been noted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is now a part of the 2011-2013 NHTSA Vehicle Safety and Fuel Economy Rulemaking and Research Priority Plan.1
A car accident or for that matter any type of accident has consequences. Be aware of your surroundings. Educate yourself. Put your safety first.
Vehicle Safety Rulemaking and Research Priority Plan for 2011-2013. (2011, March). Retrieved April 11, 2011, from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: www.nhtsa.gov
Jonsson Jr, H., Cesarini, K., Sajlstedt, B., & Rauschning, W. (1994). Findings and Outcome in Whiplash-Type Neck Distortions. Spine , 19 (24), 2733-2743.
Whiplash and Whiplash-Associated Disorders. (2009). Retrieved 04 11, 2011, from Know Your Back. Org: www.knowyourback.org
Ivancic, P., & Xiao, M. (2011). Cervical spine curvature during simulated rear crashes with energy-absorbing seat. The Spine Journal , 11 (3), 224-233.
Carroll, L., Hurwitz, E., Cote, P., Hogg-Johnson, S., Carragee, E., Nordin, M., et al. (2008). Research Priorities and Methodological Implications The Bone and Joint Decade 2000-2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders. Spine , 33 (4S), S214-S220.
Naumann, R., Dellinger, A., Zaloshnja, E., Lawrence, B., & Miller, T. (2005). Incidence and Total Lifetime Costs of Motor Vehicle-related Fatal and nonfatal Injury by Road user Type, United States 2005. Retrieved 04 15, 2011, from Center for Disease Control