A review and methodologic critique of the literature refuting whiplash syndrome

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1999 Jan 1;24(1):86-96. doi: 10.1097/00007632-199901010-00022.


The validity of whiplash syndrome has been a source of debate in the medical literature for many years. Some authors have published articles suggesting that whiplash injuries are impossible at certain collision speeds; others have stated that the problem is psychological, or is feigned as a means to obtain secondary financial gain. These articles contradict the majority of the literature, which shows that whiplash injuries and their sequelae are a highly prevalent problem that affects a significant proportion of the population. The authors of the current literature critique reviewed the biomedical and engineering literature relating to whiplash syndrome, searching for articles that refuted the validity of whiplash injuries. Twenty articles containing nine distinct statements refuting the validity of whiplash syndrome were found that fit the inclusion criteria. The methodology described in these articles was evaluated critically to determine if the authors' observations regarding the validity of whiplash syndrome were scientifically sound. The authors of the current critique found that all of the articles contained significant methodologic flaws with regard to their respective authors' statements refuting the validity of whiplash syndrome. The most frequently found flaws were inadequate study size, nonrepresentative study sample, nonrepresentative crash conditions (for crash tests), and inappropriate study design. As a result of the current literature review, it was determined that there is no epidemiologic or scientific basis in the literature for the following statements: whiplash injuries do not lead to chronic pain, rear impact collisions that do not result in vehicle damage are unlikely to cause injury, and whiplash trauma is biomechanically comparable with common movements of daily living.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic
  • Bias
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Epidemiologic Research Design
  • Humans
  • Whiplash Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Whiplash Injuries* / etiology
  • Whiplash Injuries* / physiopathology