Background Despite efforts to provide a comprehensive diagnosis of whiplash (eg, The Quebec Classification system, 1995; Soderlund & Dennison) it is an ill defined and poorly understood injury. Its occurrence seems to be dependent on a number of contextual variables.
Objective The primary objective of this study was to identify the number of cases of whiplash reported in one complete season by professional rugby players.
Design A longitudinal design was adopted. The assessment of whiplash was carried out independently of the assessment of the number of incidents that could potentially lead to WAD. The two assessments were blinded to each other.
Setting The study was undertaken within a professional rugby club in the north of England.
Participants The full first team squad (n=32) were included in the study.
Assessment of risk The main independent variables was the number of potential whiplash inducing incidents over the entire season.
Main outcome measurements The main outcome measure was the number of whiplash related injuries reported.
Results There were six cases of whiplash reported during the entire season. Five followed an on field assessment during the game and the players were deemed fit to continue with play. They needed treatment post injury in readiness for the next game, however in all five cases the injuries were not sufficiently serious to rule the player concerned out of contention for selection and all have missed no matches as a result of their injury. The minimum number of collisions that would have been expected to produce whiplash was found to be three per game.
Conclusion It is clear that the number of reported/diagnosed whiplash injuries in this sample is much lower than would be expected if you were to use data from the non-sporting domain. Further investigation into why this discrepancy happens is underway, using physiological, psychological and biomechanical markers.
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