Firstly, what is whiplash?
Whiplash occurs in some sort of accident, usually a road traffic accident, that forces the neck into a violent flexion movement and then into a violent extension movement. The force of this motion is too quick for the body to react. This means that the muscles, ligaments, and joints stretch further than their normal range of motion causing injury. This typically occurs when a car is rear ended.
Does it occur with everybody?
Whiplash doesn’t occur in all cases. When people do suffer with whiplash associated disorders it occurs in differing degrees:
Grade 0: no neck pain, stiffness, or any physical signs are noticed.
Grade 1: neck complaints of pain, stiffness or tenderness only but no physical signs are noted by the examining physician.
Grade 2: neck complaints and the examining physician finds decreased range of motion and point tenderness in the neck.
Grade 3: neck complaints plus neurological signs such as decreased deep tendon reflexes, weakness and sensory deficits.
Grade 4: neck complaints and fracture or dislocation, or injury to the spinal cord. As you can see, whiplash can be a very nasty injury. It is very rare to see grade 3 and 4 whiplash injuries but they do happen.
Why are there so many claims for whiplash?
Most people that are in a car accident suffer with grade 1 whiplash associated disorder. Although it is still considered whiplash it usually resolves within 7 days. The issue lies with the diagnosis of whiplash itself. It is important to identify what grade of whiplash the person is suffering with in order to determine how it has affected their quality of life.
The issue is that at present a neck problem after a car accident is simply diagnosed as ‘whiplash’, which means large pay outs to people with lesser problems and smaller pay outs to those with bigger problems. The claim itself should be determined on how much damage is done (what grade).
Rather than the government saying that people should stop claiming for whiplash, they should try to push for a more accurate diagnosis from the practitioner whether they are a GP, chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist. Also, re-examinations may be necessary to see how long the whiplash has taken to clear up and how long that person has had to take off work. If people then follow the classification and assess the loss of quality of life, the insurance companies can make a more informed decision on how to deal with the claim.