Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

I was in a front-end collision and had a bad neck injury. The MRI showed a torn ligament along the back of my neck. I wasn't even hit that hard by the other driver. Was this ligament defective and just ready to break?

Answer:

Research studies on frontal impact car collisions aren't very common. Based on data collected by insurance companies soft tissue injuries are more common with low-speed frontal collisions than we think. In fact up to 70 percent of the people in frontal impacts have neck injuries.

Now a new study from the Biomechanics Research Lab at Yale University has some information to offer. They studied the effect of frontal impacts on soft tissues in the cervical spine. They found even low impact collisions can cause enough strain on a ligament to snap it. This occurs when the force of the impact is greater than the physiologic strength of the ligament.

So it's possible there was nothing wrong with your ligament before the accident. Any past accidents, injuries, or strains could increase the risk of rupture with a low-impact accident.

Manohar M. Panjabi, PhD, et al. Cervical Spine Ligament Injury During Simulated Frontal Impact. In Spine. November 2004. Vol. 29. No. 21. Pp. 2395-2403.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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