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What causes whiplash?

Whiplash is caused by straining or overstretching the muscles or ligaments in the neck. There are many ways those muscles and ligaments can be injured. During a car accident your neck may be thrown forward by the impact of another car and then backward when your seatbelt catches you. Some cases of physical abuse (like punching or shaken baby syndrome) can overstretch the neck. Some contact sports (like football) sometimes also strain the neck.

Whiplash is caused by your head snapping forward and then backward very quickly. This may injure the muscles or small ligaments in the neck.

(This answer provided for NATA by the University of Alabama Athletic Training Education Program.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.