Q&A Topic: Whiplash and Traumatic Brain Injury

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Ezriel (Ed) Kornel, MD, FACS

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Q. What is whiplash?

A. Technically, it’s a rapid acceleration and then deceleration of your head. In fact, the medical name for whiplash is “cervical acceleration deceleration” or CAD. It’s almost like your head and neck are at the end of a cracking whip: The dramatic forward and backward motion can lead to strained or torn tendons or ligaments, cracked vertebrae (the donut-shaped bones in the spine and neck), and concussion, even if the victim doesn’t strike his or her head.

Q. What causes whiplash?

A. While one of the most common causes is a rear-end car collision, there are many instances that may trigger whiplash symptoms: Workplace injuries such as falling from a ladder, a collision while playing basketball, soccer, or football, or even falling off a bike. For these reasons, parents and coaches must also be vigilant about watching for the signs of possible whiplash in children.

Q. When should I see a doctor?

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A. Although symptoms may be delayed, those who suffer from whiplash often develop one or more symptoms, within the first few days. If pain spreads to your shoulders or arms, if moving your head hurts too much, or if you experience numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms, see a doctor immediately.Although most people fully recover from whiplash within two to three months, some can experience pain for several months or years.In fact, researchers have discovered that chronic pain can sometimes be traced to a whiplash injury. Managing the pain and treating any underlying injuries through physical therapy, chiropractic methods or, in some cases, surgery will help speed recovery and prevent long-term complications.

Northern Westchester Hospital
Director at Large
Orthopedic and Spine Institute
Learn More About Dr. Kornel

Northern Westchester Hospital is a proud member of Northwell Health (formerly North Shore-LIJ Health System).

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