What are connective tissue injuries?
Cervical Acceleration/Deceleration (CAD) injuries, commonly referred to as “whiplash” injuries, are common injuries in motor vehicle collisions. The diagram above comes from a 1997 research article detailing studies performed on cadavers at Yale Medical School. This research was the first to identify an injury-causing "S-curve" that happens during rear-end collisions, and other types of collisions. Hyperextension/hyperflexion injuries are other common neck injuries in connective-tissue cases.
Car wrecks cause 3,000,000 whiplash injuries per year in the United States. Medical research shows that 50% of injury victims fully recover, 40% suffer some degree of permanent injury with chronic pain, and 10% become permanently disabled.
This whiplash epidemic is caused in part by the stiffening of vehicle bumper systems to avoid or minimize property damage to vehicles, which causes the instant transfer of crash energy trauma to vehicle occupants, and which thereby provides the mechanism of injury in low speed and higher speed collisions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's bumper regulations are designed to protect vehicles, not people inside.
When spinal ligaments are torn or over-stretched due to trauma, there is always some degree of permanent injury because healing takes place with scar tissue that is less functional than normal tissue. This ligament sub-failure is like heavy duct tape being over-stretched, which will never return to its previous degree of elasticity and strength.
The hallmarks of spinal ligament injuries are that they are “permanent, painful and progressive.” Spinal ligaments hold the vertebrae together to form joints (also called "motion segments") and permit normal movement. Damaged ligaments allow abnormal movement causing clinical spinal instability, bad joints, and rapid spinal degeneration, which can cause chronic pain and the need for future medical treatment for the duration of the injury victim's lifetime.
As trial lawyers, we have studied the medical science about these types of injuries for years. Because we are knowledgeable about the cause and nature of these injuries, we not only try to help our clients in court, we try to educate them about their injuries as well.
While the normal healing time for the average connective tissue injury is approximately 6-8 weeks, many individuals who have experienced whiplash trauma take longer to heal. The are numerous reasons for one individual taking longer to heal than another individual as every person is different. Taking advantage of the initial window of opportunity for healing is important so that the scar tissue repair process will be more functional, and thereby minimize the degree of permanent impairment from the crash injuries. Restoring normal spinal motion through proper treatment, including spinal manipulative therapy, is critical to the repair of damaged connective tissues.