Whiplash (acceleration/deceleration) happens most frequently in a car accident. Let’s say you were driving along the highway and suddenly had to slow down for the backed up traffic ahead of you. The guy behind you doesn’t brake fast enough and hits your car from behind.
On impact your head bends backward rapidly to counter the force you got from behind, reaches end range (the complete movement your neck is able to make) and then snaps forward again. If you were looking directly to the front, in a split second your head moves from a relaxed forward facing position to bending all the way back and then to bending all the way forward. Like a whip that is cracked, the tail of the whip gets lashed forward then jerked backwards creating a swift snap. In the same way your neck gets whipped abruptly and without warning.
If your head was turned sideways while reading the billboard your were passing, your whiplash injury will be completely different.
Concussion goes hand in hand with a whiplash injury. A concussion occurs when you get a direct blow to your head. During an accident it is very likely that you could hit your head. The impact during an accident will cause your head to violently move in one direction within a split second. Your brain is suspended in fluid inside your skull and will follow the same route. The inside of your skull will absorb most of the impact, but the brain hits the inside surface of the skull. The brain then rebounds and hits the opposite side as it moves back into position.
The action of sustaining a whiplash injury might be very similar to concussion, but the conditions are different.
- Concussion is a traumatic injury to your head and brain.
- Whiplash is a traumatic injury to your neck.
Both of these are serious injuries. Sustaining a whiplash injury to your neck doesn’t necessarily mean you are definitely going to have a concussion injury as well, and vice versa.
The seriousness of the accident does not correlate with the severity of the symptoms.
As mentioned above, the head and neck is a sophisticated combination of joints, muscles, ligaments and nerves. All of these structures in your neck can be affected by a whiplash injury. The amount of damage will be different, depending on the direction and force of impact. A whiplash injury is not visible to the naked eye like an open wound. Therefore, people tend to believe “if you can’t see it, it’s not that bad”. There will not be bleeding or any other sign of injury, but this does not mean you are “Okay”.