Altman, Lawrence K. "Whiplash Treatments Found to be Ineffective," New York Times, 2 May

 

Altman, Lawrence K. "Whiplash Treatments Found to be Ineffective," New York Times, 2 May
1995, pp. C1, C6.

A rigorous study of whiplash injuries is reported in the Times. In that study it is reported that
whiplash injuries are but poorly understood and usually are badly managed. Conducted under the
auspices of insurance companies, the team of experts suggests that: "Health professional who do
not report standardized data for whiplash should not be reimbursed and patients who do not
provide accurate information on their condition and what led to it should be ineligible for
benefits..." (p. C6)

"An international team of experts reviewed more that 10,000 scientific articles published in the
last 15 years but found little scientifically rigorous evidence to justify most existing therapies,
and also found that most are prescribed by doctors who are poorly trained in caring for whiplash
patients." (p. C1)

"The search found 10,382 articles on whiplash published in the designated period, most of which
appeared in peer-reviewed journals. Using a predetermined set of criteria to evaluate the quality
of the papers, the team found that fewer than 3 percent met even minimum scientific standards.
After discarding 10,036 papers for lack of scientific quality, the researchers found 346 worthy of
further analysis. But in the end only 62 met the group's criteria for solid scientific study.

Most doctors wrote anecdotal articles about what they do in practice without offering proof of the
reliability, validity or effectiveness of the techniques, leading the team to conclude that most
scientific work on whiplash is "flawed, uninterpretable, or inadequate to form rational clinical or
health care policy." (p. C6)

The study found that most whiplash injuries are self-limiting. Even with pain, the injury is most
likely not serious. The patient should be reassured, told that the pain will not cause harm, given
short-term relief, and told to get back to normal activities as quickly as possible.

The study was conducted under the auspices of the government controlled Automobile Insurance
Society of Quebec, took four years to complete and cost about $3 million (Canadian).

There are enormous variations in whiplash injuries: differences are reported by sex,
geographically, and nationally.