A Comprehensive Review of Low-Speed Rear Impact Volunteer Studies and a Comparison to Real-World Outcomes


Dr. Joseph Cormier, Dr. Lisa Gwin, Dr. Lars Reinhart, Dr. Rawson Wood, and Dr. Charles Bain


SPINE Volume 43, Number 18, pp 1250–1258
Copyright 2018 The Author(s). Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.


Study Design. This study combined all prior research involving human volunteers in low-speed rear-end impacts and performed a comparative analysis of real-world crashes using the National Automotive Sampling System – Crashworthiness Data System.

Objective. The aim of this study was to assess the rates of neck pain between volunteer and real-world collisions as well as the likelihood of an injury beyond symptoms as a function of impact severity and occupant characteristics in real-world collisions.

Summary of Background Data. A total of 51 human volun-teer studies were identified that produced a dataset of 1984 volunteer impacts along with a separate dataset of 515,601 weighted occupants in real-world rear impacts.

Methods. Operating-characteristic curves were created to assess the utility of the volunteer dataset in making predictions regarding the overall population. Change in speed or delta-V was used to model the likelihood of reporting symptoms in both real-world and volunteer exposures and more severe injuries using real-world data. Logistic regression models were created for the volunteer data and survey techniques were used to analyze the weighted sampling scheme with the National Automotive Sampling System database.

Results. Symptom reporting rates were not different between males and females and were nearly identical between laboratory and real-world exposures. The minimal risk of injury predicted by real-world exposure is consistent with the statistical power of the large number of volunteer studies without any injury beyond the reporting of neck pain.

Conclusion. This study shows that volunteer studies do not under-report symptoms and are sufficient in number to conclude that the risk of injury beyond neck strain under similar conditions is essentially zero. The real-world injury analyses demonstrate that rear impacts do not produce meaningful risks of cervical injury at impacts of similar and greater severity to those of the volunteer research. Future work concerning the mechanism of whiplash-related trauma should focus on impacts of severity greater than those in the current literature.

Copyright Spine 2018;43:1250–1258