“Whiplash” is the name given to head and neck injuries caused by a sudden, violent movement of the head. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons estimates that as many as three million whiplash injuries occur every year in the United States, and that about 20 percent of all vehicle occupants involved in rear-end car crashes experience whiplash symptoms.
Whiplash can be tough to diagnose for several reasons. First, not all whiplash symptoms appear immediately after an accident. Bruising, swelling, torn tissues, and other damage may not be obvious for a few days.
Next, there is no single definitive medical test that can pinpoint whiplash. Instead, tests like X-rays can help rule out other causes of neck pain and swelling, like fractured bones. Medical personnel must also be careful to get a complete patient history, if possible, to help them identify whiplash more easily.
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