Despite a Swedish study in 1995 that suggested that the risk of whiplash in children is as high as two-thirds of the likelihood of an adult suffering the condition, less than 2% of whiplash literature is actually devoted to children.
Considering that the strength of a six year old’s spine is only around 25% of the strength of an adult’s, clinical research begs the question as to why more children are not admitted with whiplash injuries.
The answer may lie in factors such as seating in cars. Children tend to ride in the back seats of cars, which are known to be generally safer than the front seats. The back seats also have reduced elasticity and smaller backrests, designed specifically to minimise the potential for injury in low-speed rear impact crashes. Children also are proven to have a greater range of spinal motion and generally also have less history of injuries or degenerative diseases which can adversely affect the outcome of a rear impact and any injuries incurred.
In October, a study was conducted using 105 children under the age of 17; each of whom had been involved in a low impact collision. They were each interviewed and assessed at intervals according to the severity of their injuries:- the most severe cases were interviewed 2 weeks after they received their injuries, with further assessments scheduled at further 2 week intervals. Less severe cases were initially interviewed 5 days post injury. 39% of these children were sitting in the front seat at the time of impact and 61% were rear-seat passengers and, of these, 50% were involved in rear impact collisions, 32% were involved in head on collisions and 18% were in side-on impacts.
49 out of 105 of the patients were recorded with whiplash injuries, with 47% of these being over the age of 12. Forty of these were ‘Grade 1’ or severe cases and took an average of 19.7 days to recover, with the rest reaching a comfortable state in 6.4 days. The main conclusion of the report focused on the age of the children and states that the risk of whiplash injury increases as a child reaches puberty, probably as a result of the physiological changes that the child is undergoing.
Children also rank alongside women as being more likely to suffer whiplash injury than men which seems to be due to their size. Being shorter, they can often be closer to the airbag and, in an impact, this can exaggerate the movement of the neck. Size can also mean that they may have less securely fitted restraints.
In the past, children involved in accidents of this nature have been too often overlooked, both statistically and by the world of insurance; a number of insurance companies have refused to pay for the treatment of children who have received whiplash and whiplash associated disorders, bur personal injury specialist firms have been persistent, setting precedents that should ensure that children are no longer the ‘forgotten injured’ of these unfortunate and often debilitating accidents.
Whiplash is the term used to describe a soft tissue injury to the neck when you are involved in a car accident. The pain can last for a matter of days or in more severe cases a number of years. However, only a minor percentage of whiplash injuries result in long term injuries with most people making a full recovery. The important point is to make sure you are treated by professional medical staff as soon as possible.
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