Cervical hyperextension injuries are common and are associated with significant morbidity. Clinically two syndromes are described: "acute" whiplash syndrome and "late" whiplash syndrome (in which the patients are still symptomatic after six months despite normal physical and radiological examination). In order to clarify the pathology of the persistent pain in late whiplash syndrome we performed a cervical spine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in 33 consecutive patients suffering from this condition. Twenty-six patients (78.8%) showed MRI abnormalities, the most common MRI finding (57.6%) was pre-existent spondylosis. Indeed, the group of patients with spondylosis and other MRI changes had higher clinical scores than those without MRI abnormalities as measured by a three-point grading system based upon the symptoms and signs shown. Several MRI changes, most of them already demonstrable by standard X-ray were seen among 33 patients suffering from late whiplash syndrome. Although no one of these findings appears to be specific and certainly related to the previous neck injury, they could represent a risk factor for a longer pain duration.