The anatomy and biomechanics of acute and chronic whiplash injury

Traffic Inj Prev. 2009 Apr;10(2):101-12. doi: 10.1080/15389580802593269.


Whiplash injury is the most common motor vehicle injury, yet it is also one of the most poorly understood. Here we examine the evidence supporting an organic basis for acute and chronic whiplash injuries and review the anatomical sites within the neck that are potentially injured during these collisions. For each proposed anatomical site--facet joints, spinal ligaments, intervertebral discs, vertebral arteries, dorsal root ganglia, and neck muscles--we present the clinical evidence supporting that injury site, its relevant anatomy, the mechanism of and tolerance to injury, and the future research needed to determine whether that site is responsible for some whiplash injuries. This article serves as a snapshot of the current state of whiplash biomechanics research and provides a roadmap for future research to better understand and ultimately prevent whiplash injuries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Humans
  • Neck / anatomy & histology*
  • Neck Pain / etiology
  • Neck Pain / physiopathology
  • Whiplash Injuries / physiopathology*