The association between exposure to a rear-end collision and future neck or shoulder pain: A cohort study

J Clin Epidemiol 2000 Nov;53(11):1089-94

Berglund A, Alfredsson L, Cassidy JD, Jensen I, Nygren A

Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

[Medline record in process]

Neck pain is the most frequently reported feature in connection with whiplash injury, but it is also a common complaint in the general population. Therefore it is crucial to include an unexposed comparison group when evaluating the association between neck pain and a previous motor vehicle crash (MVC). To determine whether exposure to a rear-end collision, without or with whiplash injury, is associated with future neck or shoulder pain, a cohort study was conducted. The study population consisted of persons covered by traffic insurance at one of the largest insurance companies in Sweden. Claim reports were collected from the period November 1987 to April 1988. Drivers exposed to a rear-end collision were divided into two subgroups, without reported whiplash injury (n = 204) and with reported whiplash injury (n = 232). Two comparison groups, unexposed to MVCs, consisting of 1599 and 2089 persons, were selected with consideration taken to the age and gender distribution in the exposed subgroups. A questionnaire concerning neck or shoulder pain and other subjective health complaints was mailed to all the study subjects at follow-up in 1994, 7 years after the rear-end collision. The relative risk of neck or shoulder pain at follow-up was 1.3 (95% CI 0.8-2.0) in the exposed subjects without whiplash injury compared with the unexposed. The corresponding relative risk in subjects with whiplash injury was 2.7 (95% CI 2.1-3. 5). We conclude that there is no increased risk of future neck or shoulder pain in drivers who did not report whiplash injury in connection with a rear-end collision 7 years earlier. In drivers with reported whiplash injury, the risk of neck or shoulder pain 7 years after the collision was increased nearly three-fold compared with that in unexposed subjects.

PMID: 11106881