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A new study published in the July issue of the journal Brain Injury, (“Chiari and Whiplash Injury,” co-authored by Ezriel E. Kornel, M.D. F.A.C.S., Michael D. Freeman, Ph.D., et al.) concludes that whiplash may also cause anatomical changes that can result in brain injury. Whiplash, or acceleration/deceleration forces on the head and neck, commonly occurs following motor vehicle crashes. There is little dispute that a motor vehicle crash can cause injuries to the neck, however, even though the same forces cause the brain to be thrust back and forth within the skull, some docotors have been reluctant to acknowledge an association between car crashes and brain damage.

The study, one of the few to look at the connection between whiplash and brain injury, examined the MRI scans of 1200 neck pain patients and found that those patients suffering from whiplash were more likely to have anatomical changes to the brain resulting in brain injury, specifically, a herniation of the brain called Chiari malformation, in which the bottom part of the brain (the cerebellum) dips through an opening in the base of the skull after a whiplash injury. Preliminary findings showed that brain injury occurred in 23% of the whiplash cases studied.

One of the co-authors, Dr. Kornel, said that “[Chiari] can be quite painful and endanger the patient’s health, with symptoms that may include headaches, neck pain, upper extremity numbness and tingling, and weakness. In a few cases, there can also be lower extremity weakness and brain dysfunction.” Dr. Kornel advises anyone suffering from whiplash to see a physician immediately. Dr. Kornel is with the Brain & Spine Surgeons of New York and serves on the board of directors of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Counsel representing brain damage victims need to have this study in their medical literature arsenal.

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