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Whiplash 6: Who's at risk?

Over the next several weeks, we will post a total of 10 short articles about whiplash injuries from auto collisions, a poorly understood but all too common injury. Our firm handles many such cases and is committed to informing you so you can protect yourself and your family.

Who is at greater risk of injury

A.) Women are at 4.8 times greater risk of whiplash injury because they tend to have longer, less muscular necks, which are less able to withstand trauma. Males, on average, are stronger by 1.5 times and are therefore better able to resist injury. Also women tend to sit farther from the seat back and headrest (about 4"). This makes for farther and faster rearward acceleration in a rear end collision enhancing injury to the neck. Men of slight stature are more subject to injury for similar reasons. Women are also thought to feel pain more intensely than men, they also risk having their pain ignored or trivialized by doctors who then treat them less aggressively.

B.) People with existing damage to or weakness of their necks such as that caused by arthritis, prior injuries or simple aging are at increased risk of injury. For example the strength of vertebral end plates decreases by 50% between the 20's and the 60's. Also, muscles get smaller and weaker with age and are less able to protect complex structures. When already damaged or weakened structures are stressed to the breaking point, the failures are more complete and healing is less likely. Often preexisting spinal changes do not cause any symptoms at all before a collision. Trauma to the neck from a collision can cause pain that may never have occurred otherwise.

The bottom line is that women or an older people may suffer serious injury from a collision that would be but an inconvenience to a younger man.

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