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Common Ski Injuries #12: Whiplash

Less commonly seen in winter sports are injuries to the neck. Similar to lower back injuries, acute onset of pain in the neck may follow a long day of unaccustomed activity, an odd or unexpected movement, or even a night’s sleep on a different sleeping surface. As with lower back injuries, provided there are no neural signs such as weakness or numbness in the hands or arms, then these problems can be managed conservatively and should settle in a number of weeks. 

High-velocity neck injuries, however, should be treated with a greater degree of caution. Most people are familiar with the term “whiplash”, and the most common cause of whiplash is a rapid braking motion or motor vehicle collision. Due to the force of impact, the head is rapidly moved backwards or forwards, causing stress to the structures of the neck, including muscles, joints and intervertebral discs. We also see this mechanism occur with ski speed ski falls, and in particular when the head is hit by a tree etc. and forced backwards. 

Sometimes these whiplash injuries don’t cause a great deal of pain at the time, but due to disturbances in the motor control of the neck and altered stability, symptoms can start to come on over time, and in many cases become chronic. Therefore, individuals sustaining this type of injury are urged to see a medical professional, even if symptoms are manageable and settle quickly.

Initial management of a whiplash injury involves the use of a soft collar to settle pain, and early commencement of a muscle endurance program. Symptoms should be monitored over the following months and activity levels monitored accordingly. 

If you have suffered a neck injury on the slopes then contact us now and let us help guide you on the path to recovery.


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