Neck and Back Injury Risk Factors

The elderly are at increased risk for whiplash-related injuries.  As we age, muscle size and strength decreases; soft tissues become less elastic; and the intervertebral discs hold less fluid and become more fragile.  An older disc will not have the same ability as a younger disc to cushion nerves, vascular, bone and joint structures during any hyperextension, hyperflexion and compression.


3-point restraints generally do not reduce neck injuries.


Front-seat passengers tend to be injured more frequently than rear-seat passengers.


Taller people may be at greater risk than shorter adults or children for hyper extension injuries because they receive less protection from the seatback and the head restraint, with their heads often higher than the seat.

In diagnosing a neck and back injury,
a number of risk factors must
be considered.


Individuals with a history of neck injuries or degenerative changes in the spine are at greater risk.


Women are generally more susceptible to injuries, including traumatic brain injury, than men.


Although a head restraint can help to reduce the hyperextension of the head during the first phase of any rear-end collision, this will only be true if it is properly designed and positioned for the occupant.  Furthermore, a head restraint will not prevent the hyperflexion phase of the injury.