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This article has been peer reviewed. It was published in: Current reviews in musculoskeletal medicine

Volume 1, Issue 1, March 2008, Pages 65-8.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1007/s12178-007-9008-x. Copyright © Springer.


STUDY DESIGN: Focused review of the current literature.

OBJECTIVE: To identify and synthesize the most current data pertaining to the diagnosis and treatment of whiplash and whiplash-associated disorders (WAD), and to report on whiplash-related injuries.

METHODS: A search of OVID Medline (1996-January 2007) and the Cochrane database of systematic reviews was performed using the keywords whiplash and WAD. Articles under subheadings for pathology, diagnosis, treatment, and epidemiology were chosen for review after identification by the authors.

RESULTS: A total of 485 articles in the English language literature were identified. Thirty-six articles pertained to the diagnosis, treatment, epidemiology of whiplash, and WAD, and were eligible for focused review. From these, 21 primary and 15 secondary sources were identified for full review. In addition, five articles were found that focused on whiplash associated cervical injuries. These five articles were also primary sources.

CONCLUSIONS: Whiplash is a common injury associated most often with motor vehicle accidents. It may present with a variety of clinical manifestations, collectively termed WAD. Whiplash is an important cause of chronic disability. Many controversies exist regarding the diagnosis and treatment of whiplash injuries. The multifactorial etiology, believed to underly whiplash injuries, make management highly variable between patients. Radiographic evidence of injury often cannot be identified in the acute phase. Recent studies suggest early mobilization may lead to improved outcomes. Ligamentous and bony injuries may go undetected at initial presentation leading to delayed diagnosis and inappropriate therapies.

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