Japanese Car Accident Whiplash Study Reveals Shocking Data
A 2001 study by Hijioka, Narusawa and Nakamura in Archives of Orthopedic Trauma Surgery looked at 400 auto accident victims of varying ages and levels of vehicle damage and compared treatment duration.
The researchers excluded any accident victims with nerve or bone damage concluding that those injuries are not considered "whiplash" per se but are injuries that happen to occur from car accident trauma. Apparently to the authors a whiplash injury is simply a muscle and ligament injury, contrary to what whiplash researchers here believe. This removes Grade III and Grade IV whiplash injuries from the study, which skews the results. Had those injuries been included, the results would have been much different with even longer treatment times.
Car Damage and Treatment Duration:
What they found may be shocking to some, but for seasoned whiplash practitioners, it validated what we have known for many years: vehicle damage does not equate with bodily injury in a linear fashion. The longest durations of care were highest for two main groups: crashes that involved no damage at all to the bumper and crashes where one half of the car was damaged (rear bumper, trunk lid and either fender damage or frontal damage). The "no damage" category had the highest total treatment times, while the victims with completely destroyed cars had the shortest treatment duration. This emphasizes what crash experts have long said; a crash that involves no crumpling allows kinetic energy to travel through the vehicle and into the occupant causing injury. Heavy crashes involve much vehicle crumpling and destruction which absorbs or bleeds off kinetic energy and less is transmitted to the occupant.
Occupant Age and Treatment Duration:
Victims below 20 years of age fared the best with the lowest treatment duration. The worst group was the above 70 victims whose worn and stiff spines cause them to suffer more injury and take longer to heal. In the middle was the 30-40 and 50-60 range who were approximately the same.
Because of this study, we now have a set of risk factors that can explain treatment duration after an accident. The highest risk for prolonged whiplash treatment are:
- No vehicle damage
- One half of car damaged
- Age >70
- Age 30-60
Car accident injuries are complex and in some aspects confounding. For this reason, reviewing treatment durations requires taking into account the aforementioned risk factors.