|Anatomy of greed||May. 3, 2003|
|Provided by: Sun Media|
| How much whiplash pain is in the mind and how much in the neck? It's an important question because a huge amount of money is involved. And it comes out of everyone's pocket. This year, the diagnosis, treatment, litigation and insurance payments of whiplash complaints will cost North Americans $29 billion. Now, a fascinating report about demolition drivers separates fact from fiction. It could be of use to defence lawyers.
There are over one million low-speed rear impact collisions every year in North America. During a rear end collision, the head is suddenly whipped backwards, then swiftly forward. It's believed that most of the injury results from the backward motion as forward movement is limited when the chin strikes the chest.
Neck pain occurs in 60%-100% of whiplash injuries. The pain may radiate into the back of the head, shoulder or scapular areas. Headaches occur in 82% of cases. Other problems include low back pain, abnormal sensory sensations in the arms, dizziness, and visual and hearing disturbances.
In North America, whiplash injuries impact the life of victims in a major way. Studies show that up to 50% of car accident victims complain of persistent neck pain six months after the accident. And most of these injuries occur at speeds between 10- 15 km per hour.
Twenty-six percent of people are unable to return to full activity for six months after the injury. Ten percent result in permanent disability and 38% need time off work or become unemployed.
Dr. Alexander Simotas is assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine at Cornell University. More importantly, he's a psychiatrist at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery. And he had a great idea. Why not study what happens to demolition drivers when they're rear-ended?
People don't pay simply to see demolition drivers cause a few fender benders. The name of the game is to crash repeatedly into each other at speeds up to 70 km/h. And like the gladiators of ancient Rome, the last one standing wins.
Moreover, demolition drivers don't try it once and then quit. It's estimated that most demolition drivers experience an average of 1,440 collisions during their career. And 54% are rear end collisions!
Dr. Simotas recently told the North American Spine Society's annual meeting that the neck pain of demolition drivers was generally mild and lasted less than three weeks! Only three out of 50 demolition drivers believed their neck pain was related to the sport.
So how could there be such a discrepancy between what happens to the driving public and to demolition drivers? At this point, like Hamlet, I'm starting to think that, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." But the smell gets worse when Dr. Simotas reports what happens in nations that are not inundated with lawyers. Countries without insurance systems that remunerate patients for injury.
For instance, in Lithuania, 95% of car accident victims recover from the trauma within six weeks or less. Studies in Greece and Germany report similar findings.
Dr. Simotas reached a logical conclusion; "Injury to cervical spine from motor vehicle collisions appears to result in significantly less pain where there is little or no medico-legal compensation."
Possibly one of the understatements of all time.
Several previous studies tried to identify risk factors associated with a poor outcome and prolonged duration of symptoms. For instance, those with previous neck pain usually fared poorly. So did patients who were elderly, female, and those who experienced abnormal skin sensations and muscle spasms following the accident. Or those who had abnormalities on X-ray and MRI examinations.
Now we can add another important factor -- human greed, the desire to get something for nothing, aided by ambulance chasing lawyers.
And we all have to pay for it.
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