The Great Paradox: Car Accidents and Whiplash

Chiropractor El Cajon Car Accident InjuryIt only takes a small force to cause injury to the lower neck, which is partly why even very low speed accidents cause injury. It seems counter-intuitive but before damage occurs in a car accident, the car getting hit remains relatively stiff and much of the energy from the collision goes into accelerating the car and the occupant(s) forward (causing the whiplash injury). Once the car getting hit starts to crumple much of the energy is spent bending or breaking parts on the car rather than accelerating the car and the passengers.

So insurance companies see a car with thousands of dollars in damage and no injuries and then won’t believe you are injured with less than $1,000 damage, maybe damage just to the bumper, or no damage at all.  However your risk of whiplash injury is actually greater down in the 2-9 mph impact speed than it is in that 9-20 mph range where the car really starts to get a lot of damage.

Two separate studies have borne this out. One study took the following steps:

  1. Outfitted a fleet of cars with accelerometers
  2. Looked at all whiplash injuries over time in the fleet
  3. Found the average change in velocity causing whiplash was about 5 mph

Another study reconstructed 100 rear impact crashes with whiplash injury finding the average change in velocity of the car in those crashes was 4 mph. That is average so some were at higher speeds, but some were at lower speeds as well. 4-5 mph was the average velocity change causing whiplash injury, but most cars can survive that without significant damage.

That paradox fools insurers but it also fools too many people who get hit and don’t seek help for whiplash. The message here is that if you get hit from behind, even with little or no damage to your car, have our Chiropractor in El Cajon check out your neck and spine.



One thought on “The Great Paradox: Car Accidents and Whiplash”

  1. Whiplash can certainly occur at low speed. It causes the neck to lose it’s normal C curve. We see it on x-ray and call it a military neck or hypolordosis. The scalene muscles become too tight causing the weight bearing of the head to be carried by the lower Cervical discs. They are not designed for this and often degenerate unnecessarily.
    Dr Michael Portelli DC spineline Australia


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