Raise your headrest and save your neck!! Cedar Park Spine & Injury

Neck sprains and strains, commonly known as whiplash, are the most frequently reported injuries in U.S. insurance claims. In 2007, the cost of claims in which neck pain was the most serious injury was about $8.8 billion, or 25 percent of the total payout for crash injuries.

Head restraints help prevent whiplash. When a vehicle is struck from the rear, the seatback pushes against an occupant’s torso and propels it forward. If the head is unsupported, it lags behind the torso until the neck reaches its limit, and the head suddenly whips forward. A good head restraint prevents this by moving an occupant’s head forward with the body during a rear-end crash.

Head restraints should be properly adjusted. The top of the head restraint should be even with the top of the head or, if it won’t reach, as high as it will go. The distance from the back of the head to the restraint should be as small as possible.

Improvements

More and more passenger vehicles are being equipped with seats and head restraints rated good. The Zuby Institute started evaluating and comparing the geometry of head restraints in 1995 model cars, only a handful were rated good and 80 percent were poor. Then the automakers responded, and by 2004 about 4 of every 5 head restraints had good or acceptable geometry (see Status Report special issue: protection against neck injury in rear crashes, Nov. 20, 2004). Similarly, the dynamic performance of seat/head restraint combinations is improving. Only 12 percent of 2004 model cars had combinations rated good, but by the 2007 model year the proportion had increased to 29 percent (see “Head restraints are improving but not fast enough,” Aug. 4, 2007).

These improvements are being driven not only by ratings of seat/head restraints published by the Institute and other insurer-sponsored groups but also by a U.S. standard that will require the restraints to extend higher and fit closer to the backs of people’s heads by the 2009 model year. In the United States, automakers also have been spurred by the Institute’s TOP SAFETY PICK award. To win this designation, a vehicle has to earn good ratings in all three tests — front, side, and rear.

How the injuries occur

When a vehicle is struck in the rear and driven forward, its seats accelerate occupants’ torsos forward. Unsupported, an occupant’s head will lag behind this forward torso movement, and the differential motion causes the neck to bend and stretch. The higher the torso acceleration, the more sudden the motion, the higher the forces on the neck, and the more likely a neck injury is to occur.

Injuries in rear crashes

These vehicles didn’t sustain a lot of damage when they were struck from behind, but the drivers were treated for injuries suffered in the impacts. Neck sprains and strains are the most serious problems reported in about 1 of 3 insurance claims for injuries. This problem could be reduced by equipping vehicles with seat/head restraints rated good, based on Institute tests. Twenty-nine of all recent model cars and 22 percent of other passenger vehicles have systems rated good for protection against neck injury.

Factors that influence neck injury risk include gender and seating position in addition to the designs of seats and head restraints. Women are more likely than men to incur neck injuries in rear crashes, and front-seat occupants, especially drivers, are more likely to incur such injuries than people riding in back seats are.

The key to reducing whiplash injury risk is to keep an occupant’s head and torso moving together. To accomplish this, the geometry of a head restraint has to be adequate — high enough and near the back of the head. Then the seat structure and stiffness must be designed to work in concert with the head restraint to support an occupant’s neck and head, accelerating them with the torso as the vehicle is pushed forward.

 

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field