Neck pain

Sports injuries: Whiplash

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Whiplash occurs in sports that involves forceful impact in which the head and neck are snapped forwards and backwards in a sudden, violent movement. It typically occurs in vehicular accidents but some contact sports such as football can result to whiplash injuries.

Causes of whiplash injuries

Whiplash is also known as a flexion-extension neck injury which refers to an injury affecting the soft tissues of the neck including the tendons, ligaments and muscles.

The indications of whiplash typically include neck stiffness and pain. The upper back and shoulder pain can also develop in some cases. Most cases of whiplash recuperate within a few weeks but if not treated, they can remain and progress into long-lasting conditions that can persist for years and result to pain and oftentimes disability.

What are the symptoms?

The indications of whiplash typically include neck stiffness and pain.

The typical symptoms of whiplash manifest right away or within 24 hours after the accident such as the following:

  • Headaches
  • Neck rigidity and pain
  • Low back pain
  • Pain or discomfort in the shoulder or between the shoulder blades
  • Dizziness
  • Pain or numbness in the arm and/or hand
  • Irritability, fatigue or sleep disturbance
  • Ringing in the ears or blurred vision
  • Difficulty remembering or with concentration


If an individual has a whiplash injury, it is vital to consult a doctor to assess the severity of the injuries. Most cases are similar to neck strains and can include soft tissue injuries to the ligaments and muscles but can also damage the cervical discs as well.

The doctor will request various diagnostic tests to confirm the area of injury. Oftentimes, MRI or CT scans are utilized to determine the extent of the injury. Previously, these injuries were immobilized using a cervical collar. Nevertheless, the latest trend is to promote early movement instead of immobilization.

A soft cervical collar can be utilized for support to the head as well as relieve pressure on the neck while the ligaments heals. The first aid involves the RICE method in which an ice pack can be applied for the initial 24 hours followed by gentle active movement.

Additionally, over-the-counter pain medications are also beneficial to minimize the pain and inflammation. These are effective and dependable when used properly for moderate pain relief.

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