One of the most brilliant scientists that ever lived was undoubtedly Sir Isaac Newton – a physicist, astronomer, mathematician, theologian, and natural philosopher whose work has influenced many parts of our society. At age 43 – in 1647 – he published Principia Mathematica, which altered the history of science.
In his seminal book, Newton discusses three Laws of Motion – Laws which we’re able to easily use to explain the causes and effects of whiplash trauma and the injuries it causes. The First Law of Motion is the Law of Inertia. It says, quite simply, that an object that isn’t moving will remain motionless and that an object that is moving will keep moving in the same direction and speed – in both cases, unless some outside power intervenes to change things.
The larger and heavier and faster-moving an object, the greater the intervening power has to be in order to alter the motion. In the case of whiplash injuries, the object that’s moving is your head – a pretty hefty ball of mostly water, often moving forward at several dozen miles per hour while the vehicle (and, because of seat belts, the body) holding it up stop quite violently. The only force that can stop the head is the strength of the neck’s muscles and connective tissues.
Alternately, in the case of a rear-end collision, your car and body, which is held up by the seat back, lurches forward. Your neck flexes backward as your head doesn’t keep up. Then, because your car is heavy and holding your body in place with a seat belt, your car and body stops, but your head won’t. Your head plummets forward, again only stopped by your neck’s muscles and ligaments.
In either case, what happens is that, given a significant enough impact, the muscles and connective tissues of the neck tear and disjoin, causing severe damage we call ‘whiplash.’