child neck injury whiplash wearing neck brace

Whiplash is a common injury after a car accident, but can it really affect children? Yes. Hospitals treat whiplash injuries in children across The United States each year. Some of these injuries are due to falls, sports, or other harsh contact, but many of them are caused by vehicle collisions.

What is whiplash? In its most basic sense, whiplash is when the muscles in the neck are strained after a force snaps an individual’s head forward and backward in a rapid motion. The strain can be minor or catastrophic, depending on the speed and force applied. This could, of course, be very dangerous for a young child.

Why do car accidents cause whiplash injuries in children?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2021 alone over 1,100 children died in car accidents. 162,298 children experienced injuries in traffic crashes. As you probably know, car accident victims experience extreme forces at the point of impact and in the moments following. Even adult bodies suffer after these collisions, but a young child is even more susceptible to injuries in these circumstances. Why?

For this post, we are referencing individuals 14 years and under as a “child” as their bodies are still developing. A few key characteristics that affect their ability to withstand an impact include:

Head size

Young children’s heads are not yet proportionate to their bodies. The forces in a car accident greatly exaggerate the whipping motion caused by this imbalance in weight distribution.

Weaker muscles

Children do not yet have the muscle tone needed to support their structure fully. Their weaker muscle tone leaves joints and bones more susceptible to injury as they can’t withstand the force in the same way an adult could.

Partial development

As mentioned above, children and even young teens are still physically maturing. This lack of development affects their skeletal structure, muscles, and strength, again leaving them more susceptible to injuries.

Sadly, some of the injuries and fatalities referenced above could have been prevented. Always use age and weight-appropriate child safety seats, and keep children securely buckled in the back seat of the vehicle.

What are the symptoms of whiplash in a child?

child receiving physical therapy with gentle stretch to neck and shoulder. Child has arm extended with PT assisting.

Physical therapy may be recommended for children with whiplash injuries!

Whiplash can cause a wide range of symptoms. Unfortunately, due to age and communication skills, whiplash in children might go unnoticed. If you worry your child sustained a whiplash injury, watch for symptoms like:

  • neck pain and stiffness (children might just complain of general pain in the back/neck/shoulders)
  • headaches
  • behavioral changes (lack of concentration, moodiness, etc.)
  • changes in sleep patterns
  • fatigue
  • dizzy spells
  • tingling or numbness in arms and hands

If your child experiences any of these after sustaining an impact (car accident or otherwise), reach out to medical professionals immediately. Whiplash can cause long-term complications like early-onset arthritis or chronic pain.

How do medical professionals treat whiplash in children?

Doctors generally recommend rest first and foremost in childhood whiplash injuries. This promotes healing in the affected tissues, and in many cases will lead to full healing. However, in more serious cases, victims may need additional treatment.

Gentle stretching, physical therapy, chiropractic care, and even counseling or support may be needed for children who experienced a whiplash injury in a car accident. Unfortunately for many families, those treatments can be expensive and aren’t always covered by insurance.

A driver left my child with a whiplash injury…what should I do?

After reaching out for medical assistance for your child, call the team at Brooks Law Group. We specialize in whiplash injuries and represent individuals of all ages. We advocate for families and fight for the compensation they need to aid in their child’s treatment. You and your child deserve justice, and you can trust our team of experienced attorneys to stand up for you. We require no payment until we WIN your case. Victims feel reassured knowing they can reach out for help risk-free. Call us to schedule your free consultation!

For whiplash injuries, Tampa victims Look to Brooks.