Spine update. Impaired cognitive functioning after whiplash injury of the cervical spine

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1996 Feb 1;21(3):392-7. doi: 10.1097/00007632-199602010-00029.


To enhance the awareness of physicians treating whiplash patients, findings from previous research regarding cognitive functioning of these patients are discussed and recommendations for assessment provided. Cognitive disturbances (i.e., deficient attentional functioning and impairment of memory) are frequent complaints in patients after whiplash injury. However, few prospective studies of nonselected patients have been performed. These studies indicate that impaired cognitive functioning relates either to trauma-induced somatic symptoms (i.e., pain) or psychologic symptoms resulting from problems adjusting to trauma-related somatic symptoms. Accordingly, cognitive disturbances after whiplash show a fair rate of recovery, which parallels recovery from trauma-related somatic symptoms. Current research does not indicate disturbances in higher cognitive functions after whiplash.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis
  • Brain Injuries / etiology
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Whiplash Injuries / complications*
  • Whiplash Injuries / physiopathology
  • Whiplash Injuries / psychology