Got Whiplash? When to Seek Medical Treatment
Acceleration-deceleration injuries, often called whiplash, are a common cause of head injury. Whiplash is an apt nickname as these injuries are caused by a severe jerk, like the cracking of a whip, of the head and neck.
Rear-end collisions are the most common cause of acceleration-deceleration injuries. Car accidents are the third leading cause of traumatic brain injury (which includes concussion.) Car accidents are the second leading cause of TBI-related deaths.
The most mild acceleration-deceleration injury causes soreness and stiffness that are cured over time with over-the-counter painkillers and hot compresses. But you need to see a doctor immediately if pain extends to your shoulders or arms, if it becomes painful to move your head and if your arms feel numb, weak or are tingling.
Severe acceleration-deceleration injuries can cause bruising and bleeding in the brain. In car accidents, our head, arms and legs keep accelerating until an outside force stops them. Our bodies may stop when they reach their limits or when they hit the dashboard.
Our brains, too, continue moving until they hit our skull. In an action called shearing, the brain hits first one side of our skull then slides back to hit the opposite side. The brain may not hit the skull, but it can still get injured by the severe jerking motion.
If you’re in a car accident where your head or body went through a blow, jolt or bump, look out for the “danger signs” of concussion. Go to the doctor immediately if you suspect you or a family member has a concussion.
Possible Signs of Concussion in Adults
- Slurred speech
- Nausea or repeated vomiting
- A headache that worsens or won’t go away
- Feelings of weakness, numbness or decreased coordination
Take an adult to the emergency room immediately:
- If you notice one of their pupils is larger than the other
- They look very drowsy and can’t be woken up
- Have a convulsion or a seizure
- Can’t recognize people or places
- Are acting unusual
- Lose consciousness, even briefly
- Become more and more confused, restless or agitated
The same signs for adults apply to children, too. Additional signs of concussion in children are:
- If they won’t stop crying and cannot be console
- Won’t nurse or eat