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Lumbar Spinal Strains Associated with Whiplash Injury: A Cadaveric Study

Fast, Avital MD; Sosner, Julian MD; Begeman, Paul PhD; Thomas, Mark A. MD; Chiu, Thomas MD

American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: September 2002 - Volume 81 - Issue 9 - p 645-650
Research Articles: Back Pain
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Fast A, Sosner J, Begeman P, Thomas MA, Chiu T: Lumbar spinal strains associated with whiplash injury: A cadaveric study. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2002;81:645–650.

Objectives To study and quantify the effects of rear-end collision on the lumbar spine.

Design The lumbar spine of a cadaver was instrumented with rosette strain gauges applied on the lateral and anterior surfaces of T12, L2, and L4. Biaxial accelerometers were mounted on L1, L3, and L5. The cadaver was seated, restrained, and subjected to rear impacts of 5 g and 8 g.

Results The anterior shear strains had a biphasic shape. Spinal strains peaked at the T12 at approximately 120 and 370 msec, whereas in the L4 vertebra, it peaked at 200 and 380 msec. The anterior strain pattern of the L4 and T12 vertebrae were in diametrically opposite directions. In the second set of tests (8 g experiment), the acceleration forces and strains pattern were similar to the 5 g test but of higher magnitude. The principal anterior strain was 480 μm/m for 5 g and 530 μm/m for 8 g; the lateral shear strain was 680 μm/m and 1500 μm/m in the 5 g and 8 g experiments, respectively.

Conclusions Forces generated during simulated whiplash collision induce biphasic lumbar spinal motions (increased-decreased lordosis) of insufficient magnitude to cause bony injuries, but they may be sufficient to cause soft-tissue injuries.

From the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein college of Medicine, New York, New York (AF, MAT); the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Saint Vincent’s Medical Center, New York Medical College, New York, New York (JS, TC); and the Bioengineering Center, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan (PB).

Supported by grants from Montefiore Medical Center and St Vincent’s Medical Center.

Presented, in part, at World Spine 1, Berlin, Germany, September 2000.

All correspondence should be addressed to Avital Fast, MD, 111 East 210 Street, Bronx, New York 10467.

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.