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Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2011 Dec 1;36(25 Suppl):S263-7. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31823881d6.

The risk assessment score in acute whiplash injury predicts outcome and reflects biopsychosocial factors.

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  • 1Danish Pain Research Center, Department of Neurology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark.



One-year prospective study of 141 acute whiplash patients (WLP) and 40 acute ankle-injured controls.


This study investigates a priori determined potential risk factors to develop a risk assessment tool, for which the expediency was examined.


The whiplash-associated disorders (WAD) grading system that emerged from The Quebec Task-Force-on-Whiplash has been of limited value for predicting work-related recovery and for explaining biopsychosocial disability after whiplash and new predictive factors, for example, risk criteria that comprehensively differentiate acute WLP in a biopsychosocial manner are needed.


Consecutively, 141 acute WLP and 40 ankle-injured recruited from emergency units were examined after 1 week, 1, 3, 6, and 12 months obtaining neck/head visual analog scale score, number of nonpainful complaints, epidemiological, social, psychological data and neurological examination, active neck mobility, and furthermore muscle tenderness and pain response, and strength and duration of neck muscles. Risk factors derived (reduced cervical range of motion, intense neck pain/headache, multiple nonpain complaints) were applied in a risk assessment score and divided into seven risk strata.


A receiver operating characteristics curve for the Risk Assessment Score and 1-year work disability showed an area of 0.90. Risk strata and number of sick days showed a log-linear relationship. In stratum 1 full recovery was encountered, but for high-risk patients in stratum 6 only 50% and 7 only 20% had returned to work after 1 year (P < 5.4 × 10). Strength measures, psychophysical pain measurements, and psychological and social data (reported elsewhere) showed significant relation to risk strata.


The Risk Assessment score is suggested as a valuable tool for grading WLP early after injury. It has reasonable screening power for encountering work disability and reflects the biopsychosocial nature of whiplash injuries.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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