Though whiplash injuries can arise from any sudden jar, like a slip and fall or sports injury, they are most commonly associated with motor vehicle collisions (MVCs), even those that occur at low speeds. To best understand how someone can become injured in cases where little to no vehicular damage has occurred, we need to discuss elastic and plastic deformity, as well as the various characteristics involved in MVCs.
When you hear the term “plastic,” think breaking apart or crumbling. In a car crash, crushing metal absorbs energy. That’s an example of plastic deformity. The greater the damage, the more energy is absorbed by the crushing metal and LESS energy is transferred to the occupants (until a certain speed is reached).
In elastic deformity, little to no damage occurs, and most, if not all, of the energy passes onward. In the context of an automobile collision, a low-speed impact may not crumple the bumper or damage the rear structure of the car, and the force of the impact will continue on to the contents of the vehicle—which includes the driver and their passengers!
There are several variables that exist in car crashes that can also affect the degree of injury, such as the size of the vehicles involved, the angle of impact, the design of the vehicle, the position of the headrest, the angle of the seat, and the vehicle’s safety equipment (seat belt; air bag quantity, location, and design; breakaway seats; automated head rests; and more).
If you have a child, be sure to properly install their infant or booster seat. This includes positioning the seat on the right side of the car. The following guide from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can help: https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats
Though in most cases, the whiplash process can occur much faster than we can voluntarily brace for it, if you do see an impending collision, you may be able to reduce your risk of injury by looking forward as opposed to having your head turned at the moment of impact.
Should you experience a whiplash injury, the current research supports chiropractic care as an appropriate treatment option for reducing both pain and disability.