Whiplash-type neck distortion in restrained car drivers: frequency, causes and long-term results

Eur Spine J. 2000 Apr;9(2):109-17. doi: 10.1007/s005860050220.


An analysis was made of 1176 whiplash-type neck distortions taken from a total of 3838 restrained car driver incident reports. The percentage of whiplash-type neck distortion among injured drivers increased from less than 10% in 1985 to over 30% in 1997. Most occurred in head-on crashes or crashes with multiple collisions; only 15% occurred in rear-end collisions. More than 1,000 questionnaires were sent to the injured to find out about the duration and type of complaints caused by their cervical spine injury. Although only 138 (12%) returned the questionnaire, which may not be a representative sample, a further analysis was carried out. Of the 138, 121 (88%) indicated that they had suffered or were still suffering from their symptoms. The percentages of the various complaints were as follows: pain (74%), tension (6%) and stiffness (5%) in the head (27%), neck (55%) and shoulder (8%). The duration of the complaints was longest after multiple collisions and when the onset of complaints was longer than 24 h after trauma. Women and elderly persons predominated slightly in the group with longer duration of complaints. A correlation between the severity of the accompanying injuries and duration of complaints was found. Lack of adequate follow-up for patients with less severe injuries posed considerable difficulties for this retrospective study. In order to better evaluate this problem, prospective studies are necessary, with documentation including diagnosis, treatments, complaint duration and type.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Insurance Claim Reporting
  • Insurance, Accident
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seat Belts / adverse effects*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Whiplash Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Whiplash Injuries* / etiology
  • Whiplash Injuries* / physiopathology