Q: Can headrests really reduce the chances of neck injury in a car wreck? Can the type of head rest make a difference?

A: In many newer cars, you can find head restraints that are more effective in reducing neck injuries. For a long time, head restraints in passenger vehicles have been too low or too far from the backs of the occupants’ heads to be helpful in rear-end crashes. However, studies by the nonprofit organization Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conclude that some recent designs of seats and head restraints are greatly improved.

Nationwide, Progressive and State Farm Insurance Companies supplied claims data for the studies and participated in the research. The information they found showed that several carmakers, including Saab, Volvo and Ford have changed their passenger seats to make a difference in accidents.

The newer restraints offer better head protection and less rearward movement. This can prevent many whiplash injuries. In a rear end collision, the first movement of the upper body, neck and head are where the most significant injuries can occur. This movement occurs when the vehicle is thrust forward from the collision and the car pushes the seat into the back of the driver. This force happens very quickly but then disperses the force into the spine of the driver causing an even more accelerated force through the neck as the heavy head is thrown backward. If the headrest is too far back, it cannot prevent the injury from occurring to the spine and soft tissues. Even worse, if the headrest is too low, it can accentuate the injury, even to the point of causing a fulcrum over which the neck may break. If the headrest is no more than two inches from the back of the head and high enough that it goes to the top of the head, you can greatly reduce this injury mechanism.

Ask your chiropractor for more information on the best use and position of head restraints. Doctors of Chiropractic are considered experts in whiplash treatment. If you are injured in an automobile accident, see your chiropractor as quickly as possible so any possible problems are eliminated and do not get worse over time.

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