Whiplash vs. Concussion: What’s the Difference?
Whiplash vs. Concussion
Concussions and whiplash are two of the most common injuries during a car accident. Many of the symptoms of the two conditions overlap, including headache, neck pain, and concentration and memory problems. Since these injuries can appear similar, how do you get a clear diagnosis and the treatment you need?
At Crosley Law, we’ve handled many personal injury claims involving soft tissue injuries (like whiplash) and traumatic brain injuries (like a concussion). In this article, we explain both conditions’ symptoms, how they’re diagnosed, and what you should do if you’re living with whiplash or concussion after a car wreck.
Whiplash and Concussions Can Have Similar Symptoms
During a car crash, fall, or another traumatic event, your body experiences many forces, like acceleration-deceleration and torque. These forces can damage your body, especially your head and neck. For this reason, whiplash and concussion are two of the most common (and least understood) diagnoses after a motor vehicle accident.
Whiplash and concussions are very different conditions, but they can present very similarly. For example, people with either whiplash or a concussion may experience:
- Blurred vision
- Memory and concentration problems
- Balance issues and dizziness
- Fatigue and sleep disturbance
For most people, acute whiplash and concussion also have the same recovery time, which is about four weeks.
Now, let’s explore the differences between the two conditions.
What Is Whiplash?
When your head forcefully whips back and forth, you can hyperextend the muscles and ligaments in your neck, causing whiplash. This type of injury is most common after read-end collisions, but it can occur during any type of crash.
In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, whiplash is associated with:
- Stiffness in your neck
- Neck pain that worsens with movement
- Upper back pain
- Soreness and pain in your shoulders, upper back, and arms
- Numbness or tingling in your shoulders or arms
While most people’s whiplash goes away with time, rest, and medication, some people develop chronic whiplash-associated disorder (WAD), which can last for years after their initial neck injury. Symptoms of WAD include chronic pain in the neck and back, limited range of motion, depression, and anxiety. Unfortunately, about 50% of people with whiplash never fully recover, and 30% are significantly disabled.
What Is a Concussion?
A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Concussions occur when you strike your head or it jerks back and forth violently, stretching and damaging your brain’s tissues and causing a chemical imbalance. While some people report loss of consciousness or feeling dazed after suffering a concussion, many people do not experience these symptoms.
In addition to headache, memory loss, poor concentration, and dizziness, your concussion symptoms may include:
- Personality and mood changes
- Slurred speech
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Nausea and vomiting
For most people, concussions resolve within a short period. However, some people develop post-concussion syndrome (PCS), where their symptoms last for months or years after a car crash or traumatic event. At least 30% of concussion victims develop PCS.
Can I Suffer Whiplash and Concussion During the Same Accident?
Yes. When you’re in a car crash, forces like acceleration and deceleration can damage your neck’s soft tissues while at the same time harming your brain’s nerves and blood vessels. A 2015 study notes that when the human body endures 60–160g of acceleration or deceleration, a person can suffer a mild traumatic brain injury. In comparison, whiplash can happen with as little as 4.5g of force. So, a car crash that causes a head injury is very likely to also result in whiplash.
Researchers have also suggested that because concussions and whiplash often involve similar symptoms, the presence of an untreated whiplash injury may contribute to post-concussion syndrome. However, there hasn’t been much research about the connection between whiplash and concussions to date.
What Should I Do if I Suspect I Have Whiplash or a Concussion?
See a Doctor
Whether you have a concussion, whiplash, or both conditions, you should seek medical treatment. While you may assume that your mild TBI or neck pain will quickly go away, your symptoms may be a sign of a more serious injury. Prompt medical care may be able to help you make a fuller recovery, even if your injury is “just” a concussion or whiplash.
Additionally, your doctors’ notes will become powerful evidence if you decide to file personal injury claims. When you see a medical provider, they should document your symptoms, explain what caused them, track your recovery, and assess your ability to work and perform daily tasks. Your car crash attorney can then use this information to link your injuries to the crash and calculate your damages.
Consult a Car Accident Lawyer
When someone else’s negligence causes your mild TBI or neck injury, you have the right to demand compensation. However, whiplash and concussion injury claims can be complicated. Doctors still have a lot to learn about both conditions, and some insurance companies are skeptical of any claim involving whiplash or a mild traumatic brain injury.
One of the reasons for this skepticism is that diagnostic tests, like MRIs and CT scans, don’t always document whiplash and concussions. Because your imaging studies look “normal,” the insurance company can say you’re exaggerating your symptoms or that you’re not really injured.
To fight back, you’ll need help from an experienced personal injury lawyer who understands the nuances of a whiplash or concussion claim. At Crosley Law, we’ve helped many people get the compensation they deserve for their brain and neck injuries. Our lawyers use cutting-edge techniques to document the ways that your whiplash or concussion has impacted your life and connect your injuries to your car crash.
Plus, there’s no risk when you schedule a case evaluation with Crosley Law. We always offer free consultations, and we won’t charge you a fee unless we recover a settlement or jury award on your behalf.
Be Patient and Determined
Everyone’s body responds differently to trauma. If you have certain risk factors, your recovery from whiplash or a concussion might take longer than someone else’s. Be kind to yourself and respect your body’s healing process.
However, don’t give up. Work with your team of doctors, physical therapists, and other specialists to give yourself the best possible chance of a full recovery. People with neck and head injuries can still improve months and even years after the injury, especially if they get the care they need.
Crosley Law: San Antonio’s Trusted Car Accident Lawyers
Crosley Law serves crash victims and other injured people in San Antonio and throughout Texas. We use sophisticated, cutting-edge litigation tactics, consult with respected experts, and give our clients the time, information, and compassion they deserve. We’ve recovered hundreds of millions for car wreck victims and their loved ones, and we want to help you too.
If you or someone you love suffered a brain or neck injury due to someone else’s negligence, you can schedule a free consultation and case evaluation by calling us at 210-LAW-3000 | 210-529-3000 or by using our online form.
Elkin, B., Elliott, J., & Siegmund, G. (2016, September 30). Whiplash injury or concussion? A possible biomechanical explanation for concussion symptoms in some individuals following a rear-end collision. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.jospt.org/doi/10.2519/jospt.2016.7049
Marshall, C., Vernon, H., Leddy, J., & Baldwin, B. (2015, June 17). The role of the cervical spine in post-concussion syndrome. The Physician and Sportsmedicine. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00913847.2015.1064301
Sharp, D.J., & Jenkins, P.O. (2015, May 14). Concussion is confusing us all. Practical Neurology, vol15(3),172-186. doi:10.1136/practneurol-2015-001170. Retrieved from https://pn.bmj.com/content/15/3/172.full
Sterling, M. (2011). Whiplash-associated disorder: musculoskeletal pain and related clinical findings. The Journal of manual & manipulative therapy, 19(4), 194–200. https://doi.org/10.1179/106698111X13129729551949
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
Related ArticlesView All Blog Articles
Can You Sue for Road Rage? How to Handle Aggressive Drivers (and What to Do After a Crash)Nov 29, 2021
In driving, as with baseball, the main goal is to get home safe. The difference between driving and sports, however, is that displays of aggression on the road can get you hurt—or even killed. Almost all of us have seen aggressive driving by other drivers, or even road rage, at one point or another. If you’ve been a victim of aggressive driving […]
How to Find the Best Personal Injury Attorney in San AntonioNov 03, 2021
If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, truck wreck, or any other personal injury incident that wasn’t your fault in the San Antonio area, you might be overwhelmed by all the options available to you. Even if you’ve already decided you want to work with a personal injury lawyer, this city doesn’t have a […]
I Was Injured in a Car Accident as a Passenger. Do I Have a Claim?Oct 28, 2021
As a passenger, you put a lot of trust in the driver, and assume they’ll make the safest choices while behind the wheel. However, sometimes they or other drivers (or both) make mistakes that lead to passenger injuries. Being a passenger in a car accident is unlike being a driver. While your path to compensation […]
Leg Pain After a Car Accident: 6 Possible CausesOct 25, 2021
Leg pain is common after a car accident, but it can have many causes. Unfortunately, crash survivors often assume their pain is “just bumps and bruises” that will go away on their own. However, that dull or shooting pain may be a sign of a severe injury, like a herniated disc or a knee or […]
My Arm Tingles. Did I Suffer Nerve Damage in My Car Accident?Oct 21, 2021
The nervous system is extremely complex and more fragile than many people realize. In a car accident, nerve damage can occur in the brain, spine, and limbs. While you should always see a doctor after a crash, it is especially important to do so if you believe your symptoms (like tingling arms or hands) are […]
Blurred Vision After a Crash? What It Means for Your Legal ClaimsOct 18, 2021
About every 71 seconds, a car accident occurs on a Texas road. And approximately every two minutes, someone suffers an injury from a car accident. Sometimes, their symptoms include blurred vision or vision problems, like vision loss, limited peripheral vision, flashes of light, or double vision. Sometimes, people assume that these life-changing symptoms will go […]
What is the Most Common Cause of Auto Collisions in Texas?Oct 14, 2021
“What happened!?” is one of the most common questions you’ll get after a wreck. Sometimes, the answer seems easy. Another driver ran a red light. Or they were arrested for drunk driving. But, sometimes, that’s just part of the story. Other times, you might not have an easy answer other than, “they just came out […]
Should I Call an Attorney After a Car Accident or Other Incident?Oct 11, 2021
Calling an attorney isn’t an everyday occurrence for most people. In fact, with all the courtroom shows on television, it’s understandable if you think lawyers are mainly concerned with highly dramatic cases and hardened criminals. In reality, attorneys work on lots of cases involving San Antonio car accidents, slips and falls, brain injuries, wrongful death, […]
How Much Is My Spinal Fracture Worth in Texas?Sep 03, 2021
Although they can vary widely in severity, spinal fractures are frequently serious injuries. While some fractures heal completely with only conservative care, others can lead to multiple surgeries, severe chronic pain, digestive or breathing issues, or in rare cases, even paralysis. Because of the potential for expensive long-term care—and the fact that there are frequently […]
Crosley Law Investigation Helps Accident Victim After a Hit and RunAug 31, 2021
Hit and run accidents can be especially challenging for crash victims looking for fair compensation, accountability, and closure. If an at-fault driver flees the scene before they can be identified, you won’t be able to make a claim against their insurance company. That could leave you out of luck if you have medical bills to […]
Do you or a family member
need legal advice?
Crosley Law Firm, PC is a professional corporation of trial lawyers focused on representing individuals and families who have suffered serious personal injuries or wrongful death. If you’ve been injured, fill out the form for a free consultation, or call 210-LAW-3000.