When someone sustains a whiplash injury, there are many factors that contribute to the severity of the injury. There factors are things such as age, gender, posture, bracing for impact, etc. These factors all come into play when looking at the severity of the injury.
Age: In general, as we get older our risk for injury also increases. This is attributed to slower reflexes, less muscular strength, and joints/bones are less able to absorb the impact without injury. In regard to car accidents it is believed that the older someone is the more likely it is that their whiplash injury will be more severe compared to someone of a younger age. On the other hand, small children may also have an increased risk. This is due to their having small necks in relation to their heads, bones are not completely ossified, and their vertebral elements are not fully developed. There may also be a slight increase in risk because many parents do not know how to use a child seat properly, leading to their child being improperly restrained.
Gender: Due to musculature differences between men and women, women are slightly more likely to be injured in car accidents than men. Women have smaller frames, necks and overall have less muscle mass than men, making them more susceptible to injury. Though both male and female car accident victims are likely to develop some sort of whiplash and accompanying symptoms, it is more likely that a female’s injuries will be more severe.
Posture: At the time of impact, if your head is turned, body twisted, or you are leaning to one side, the more likely it is that injuries will be more severe than if you were sitting straight. When the neck is turned at the time of impact, the force of the accident will be localized to one side of the neck. This increases the likelihood of severe injury considerably vs. if you are hit while sitting and looking forward.
Bracing for Impact: In most cases being prepared for impact can reduce severity of whiplash injuries. Bracing for impact can reduce the forces to the head and whipping action on the neck significantly. Though this is dependent on how one braces for impact. It has been shown that someone who is aware of the impact coming and pushes themselves back into the seat has the best chances to avoid severe injuries. Simply becoming aware of the impact and tensing your muscles would not be enough to benefit from awareness of the impending accident.