Study Turns Heads on Whiplash Risk

Looking left or right cuts injuries in rear-end crash

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FRIDAY, Dec. 3, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- If you happen to have your head turned either left or right when your car is rear-ended by another vehicle, it could help reduce your risk of whiplash injury, says a University of Alberta study.

The study found that, in low speed rear-end crashes, people are much less likely to suffer whiplash injuries if they were looking to either side, instead of facing forward, at the time of impact.

Twenty healthy volunteers took turns on a special sled equipped with a rotating chair (with a seatbelt) and a pneumatic piston. Using the sled to simulate crashes, the researchers measured the responses of six different neck muscles to gradually increased low-velocity impacts from eight different directions.

"The act of turning the head tenses the muscles, which prevents movement of the neck and decreases the chances of soft tissue injury," study author Dr. Shrawan Kumar, a professor of physical therapy and neuroscience, said in a prepared statement.

He said this research may help better define often contentious low-impact whiplash injuries and could help in the development of new vehicle safety features to protect drivers in low-impact crashes.

The findings appear in the November issue of Clinical Biomechanics.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about whiplash.

SOURCE: University of Alberta, news release, Nov. 22, 2004

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