How Can Injuries Incurred in an Accident Be So Different for Different People in the Car?

car accident chiropractorI once had a patient who, after being in a car accident was suffering from severe neck pain, headaches, mid back and low back pain. Her knees and chest were bruised from hitting the dashboard. She had been wearing her seatbelt. Her husband, who was passenger and who had also been wearing a seatbelt was uninjured. He was not very sympathetic to his wife’s pain and it took about a month from the time of the accident for him to bring her in to see me.

In taking her history (and his, as he wanted to ‘get checked out’ also) it became very apparent to me that he couldn’t see her pain as real at all. What he wasn’t considering was the fact that there had been a third person in the car, his wife’s best friend and the same impact that left him asymptomatic, and that left his wife in moderate to severe pain actually killed the friend. I gently reminded him that his wife’s pain, like her friend’s death, were very real and explained that it was quite possible to see all three outcomes with an accident such as theirs.

Ultimately, being male or female, their position in the car and the physics of the accident at time of impact all played a role in their very uniquely different outcomes.

The International Association of Traffic and Safety Sciences released a paper in July of 2013 that validates this statement. Their research found that all of these factors are relevant with respect to the risk of incurring whiplash-induced medical impairment with rear-end impacts. Their study looked at gender differences, and driver and front passenger seat positions. What they identified was:

    1. Female relative risk for medical impairment was 3.1 compared to males.


  1. Driver position had a doubled relative risk compared to front seat position.

Whiplash injuries cited in this same paper included these statistics: Female drivers involved in rear-end impacts, have been found to have neck pain in 45% of the cases, and for males the corresponding figure was 28% . Females also have increased disability rates compared to males.

Signs and symptoms of whiplash include more than just neck pain. In fact these symptoms are also considered a sign of whiplash:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Worsening of pain with neck movement
  • Loss of range of motion in the neck
  • Headaches, most often starting at the base of the skull
  • Tenderness or pain in the shoulder, upper back or arms
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Less commonly but equally as possible are these whiplash symptoms:

  • Blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Depression

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Crosby Chiropractic for their insight into car accident injuries.