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More on Proprioception and Whiplash

Many studies have been recently published that have explored the relationship between whiplash and proprioception. A new study adds more to this research, by seeing how well whiplash patients could reproduce their head position in an experimental setting, as compared to a group of healthy control subjects.

Eleven whiplash patients were evaluated in this study; at least three months had passed since the injury before the test was performed. The patients wore a cervical range-of-motion device (CROM), and their heads were positioned at 30° of right rotation by the researcher. With the test subjects eyes closed, the researcher positioned the patients head at 0°, and then instructed the patient to return his or her head to the 30° position three times, without opening his or her eyes. Five other test positions were evaluated as well, and the same test was given to eleven healthy control subjects.

"The whiplash group averaged an absolute difference of 5.01° from their recorded angle measure compared with the true angle measure, whereas the control group averaged a 1.75° absolute difference."

The authors conclude, "Individuals who have sustained a whiplash injury may have proprioceptive deficits that do not allow them accurately or reliably to calculate head position. This may be detrimental to their everyday function...Rehabilitation after whiplash injury should focus not only on range of motion and strength but on postural awareness."

Loudon JK, Ruhl M, Field E. Ability to reproduce head position after whiplash injury. Spine 1997;22(8):865-868.