Post-Concussion Syndrome vs. Whiplash Associated Disorder


(updated 3/15/19)

While concussion injuries are extremely common in todays society, with an estimated 3.8 million cases in the United States throughout 2015, they are still considered one of the least understood injuries in sports medicine communities. You may be asking yourself, "But it's 2019, why haven't doctors figured out a complete solution by now? How can I trust that my child will be okay if playing sports?" These questions are completely valid, and while it's true, we don't have all the answers yet, we are constantly taking steps forward to ensure your child's safety. More than that, we want YOU to be as educated as possible on the subject of post-concussion syndrome and other possible brain traumas.

In a 2015 study, the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome and whiplash associated disorder were compared, and the role of the cervical spine was examined in brain traumas. Below we will tell you exactly what you need to know about these potential injuries.

Concussion Basics

A concussion can occur when a full body hit causes the head to move quickly back and forth; a concussion can also be caused by a blow, jolt, or even a bump, to the head. This means that even a fall on your butt can jolt the head enough to develop a concussion. If the head is impacted with a force of 95 gs, there is the possibility of concussion. For the most part, concussion symptoms resolve within 7-10 days, however, 10-15% of concussion patients develop persistent symptoms that last weeks, months, or even years after the injury. While there are a number of classifications, post-concussion syndrome, or PCS, is defined as the persistence of 3 or more symptoms for at least 4 weeks following a minor head injury.

Whiplash Basics

How can you tell the difference between a concussion and whiplash? Unfortunately, it may be more difficult than you think. Studies examining whiplash associated disorder, or WAD, have shown that the signs and symptoms reported are strikingly similar to those experienced in mild traumatic brain injury. However, it has been demonstrated that as little as 4.5 gs of force can cause strain injury to the tissue of the cervical spine resulting in WAD. 

The Signs and Symptoms

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The Bottom Line

There is a good deal of overlap in the possible symptoms for these two differing injuries. Beyond that, if an individual sustains an injury where the head is impacted by 60-160 gs of force, it is extremely likely that the tissues of the cervical spine have also reached their injury threshold of 4.5g.

So, what now? With this new information, comes the knowledge of new possible injuries that could be sustained by your young athlete. This increase in knowledge should not mean an increase in stress. At Vital, we are committed to, not only getting your family as healthy as possible, but to making sure you are comfortable and fully educated throughout the entire process. Contact us today for more information about how we can help your child excel in play and in health. 

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Want more information on WAD and the role of the cervical spine in post-concussion syndrome? Read the entire study HERE.