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Whiplash is Now Attributed to Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries

As a Clearwater personal injury attorney and brain injury attorney, I often encounter clients who have suffered significant injuries to the neck which have been diagnosed by their treating physician as suffering predominantly from “whiplash.” Automobile accident victims who have suffered whiplash, commonly find it exceedingly difficult to obtain fair compensation, and convince insurance adjusters and juries that a car accident was the root cause of the symptomatolgy they suffer from. Further, it is often a even more difficult obstacle to tie a brain injury as stemming from whiplash.

What Is Whiplash

Whiplash is the the most common injury suffered by victims of automobile accidents and can best be defined as an injury to the cervical (neck) spinal column as a result of rapid acceleration or deceleration. For instance in many accidents a car is hit from behind by a fast moving vehicle. As a result, the victim’s entire body with the exception of the head is quickly accelerated/pushed forward while the head remains behind for a moment. The head will rock up and back, which will cause the stretching and/or tearing of ligaments, tendons and the muscles of the neck.

The muscles will re-stabalize the neck by bringing the head forward. Oftentimes, the head will move forward past the range of normal motion and will further tear or stretch the surrounding ligaments, tendons and muscles. Although whiplash injuries generally occur in rear-end impact collisions, the can occur in any type of motor vehicle impact in which the neck goes through an abnormal range of motion.

Whiplash symptoms will often include:

  • Headaches (often severe)
  • Neck pain
  • Reduction in the range of motion of the neck (often resulting in neck stiffness)
  • Pain and numbness in the arms and hands (generally the result of an impinged nerve)
  • Vertigo (feeling like you are moving and/or spinning)
  • Tinnutis (ringing of the ears)
  • Muscle spasms

Whiplash and Injuries to the Brain

A recent study published in the July issue of the journal Brain injury, (Chiari and Whiplash Injury co-authored by Ezriel Kornel, M.D., F.A.C.S., and Michael D. Freeman, Ph.D. ) illustrates that whiplash may result in anatomical changes that may cause serious brain injury.

The authors examined in excess of 1200 cervical (neck) MRI’s of patients with severe neck pain as the result of whiplash. In 23% of the cases, the patients with whiplash were shown to be far more likely to have suffered anatomical changes to the brain, specifically int he form of a herniation to the brain known as a Chiari malformation. A Chiari malformation is a herniation of the brain (cerebellum) that dips through an opening at the base of the skull after a whiplash injury. A Chiari malformation occurred in 23% of the 1200 whiplash victims analyzed by the authors of said study.

The following studies also shed light and support the notion that Chiari malformations may be acquired as opposed to simply being congenital.

  1. J Neurosurg 1995 Sep;83(3):556-558 Acquired Chiari malformation and syrin associated with bilateral chronic subdural hematoma. Case report. Morioka T, Sho Nishio S, Yoshida K, Hasuo K, Fukui M. Department of Neurosurgery, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan.
  2. J Neurosurg 1998 Feb;88(2):237-242 Acquired Chiari I malformation secondary to spontaneous spinal cerebrospinal fluid leakage and chronic intracranial hypotension syndrome in seven cases. Atkinson JL, Weinshenker BG, Miller GM, Piepgras DG, Mokri B. Department of Neurological Surgery, Mayo Clinic, Rochestert, Minnesota 55905.
  3. Pediatr Neurosurg 1995;22(5):251-254 Acquired Chiari-I malformation and hydromyelia secondary to a giant craniopharyngio. Lee M, Rezai AR, Wisoff JH. Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery, New York University Medical Center, NY 10016.
  4. “Acquired” Chiari I malformation. Case report. Huang PP, Constantini S. Department of Neurosurgery, New York University Medical Center, New York.
  5. Acta Neurochir (Wien) 1998;140(5):417-27; discussion 427-8. The acquired Chiari malformation and syringomyelia following spinal CSF drainage: a incidence and management. Johnston I, Jacobson E, Besser M. Department of Neurosurgery, New Children’s Hospital, Australia.
  6. A Case of a Temporary ACM/Syrinx, 28 year old female with a car accident head injury – when the injury healed the ACM/syrinx disappeared. Source – W.C. Clivero and D.H. Dinh, Neurology, v.30, #5, 758 (1992).4

– Matthew A. Dolman, Esq.

Clearwater Personal Injury Attorney

If you have been the victim of a motor vehicle accident for which you sustained injuries, do not hesitate to contact me via email or phone. We routinely handle claims arising from whiplash and brain injury in Clearwater, Clearwater Beach, St. Petersburg, Largo, Pinellas Park, Trinity, Safety Harbor, Dunedin, Ozona, Crystal Beach, Palm Harbor, Tampa, Bradenton, Sarasota, Ellenton, and Parrish. Please contact me at: [email protected]