This blog topic comes about as a response to a conversation with a patient who was recently in a rear end collision and wondered if there was anything she could have done to lessen the impact.
A rear end collision typically results in what most people know as “whiplash”, or in the literature, “WAD” ( whiplash associated disorder), technically whiplash is acceleration injury, in this case your body accelerating and decelerating rapidly. Your neck in this action performs a hyperextension ( bending backwards) followed by hyperflexion (bending forwards), this rapid action can injure the muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints of your neck and upper back.
As far as what can be done to lessen the impact, not too much, things like tensing or relaxing prior to impact appear to have little effect. Being female in some studies indicates a longer recovery as does older age.
Headrests are in some studies a factor and not in others. In those where it is a factor most people do not have the headrest high enough to stop the head/neck’s hyperextension movement or their head was too far from the headrest in their normal driving position.
Therefore to err on the side of caution have the headrest up so the top of the headrest is at or above your head, your head should be as close as possible to the headrest when driving.
So, take 2 minutes the next time you get in the car and heads up for safety.
Headrest in this picture is too low, the top of the head is above the headrest, and the head is too far in front of the headrest.
In this picture the headrest is in the correct position and the head is close to the headrest