Anterior longitudinal ligament injuries in whiplash may lead to cervical instability

Med Eng Phys. 2006 Jul;28(6):515-24. doi: 10.1016/j.medengphy.2005.09.011. Epub 2005 Nov 10.


Although whiplash injuries account for a significant annual cost to society, the exact mechanism of injury and affected tissues remain unknown. Previous investigations documented injuries to the cervical anterior longitudinal ligament in whiplash. The present investigation implemented a comprehensively validated computational model to quantify level-dependent distraction magnitudes of this structure in whiplash. Maximum ligament distractions approached failure levels, particularly in middle to lower cervical levels, and occurred during the initial phase of head-neck kinematics. In particular, the C5-C6 anterior longitudinal ligament sustained distraction magnitudes as high as 2.6mm during the retraction phase, corresponding to 56% of distraction necessary to result in ligament failure. Present results demonstrated that anterior structures in the lower cervical spine may be susceptible to injury through excess distraction during the retraction phase of whiplash, which likely occurs prior to head restraint contact. Susceptibility of these structures is likely due to non-physiologic loading placed on the cervical spinal column as the head translates posteriorly relative to the thorax. Injury to anterior spinal structures can result in clinical indications including cervical instability in extension, axial rotation, and lateral bending modes. Mitigation of whiplash injury may be achieved by minimizing head retraction during initial stages of whiplash.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena / methods*
  • Biomedical Engineering / methods
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries
  • Cervical Vertebrae / pathology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Ligaments / injuries
  • Longitudinal Ligaments / pathology*
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Neck Pain
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Software
  • Whiplash Injuries / physiopathology*