Cervical Acceleration-Deceleration (CAD) Injuries

Cervical acceleration-deceleration injuries are a more specific subset of injuries within the broader category of whiplash.

Cervical Acceleration-Deceleration (CAD) Injuries

Cervical acceleration-deceleration injuries are a more specific subset of injuries within the broader category of whiplash.

What Are Cervical Acceleration-Deceleration (CAD) Injuries?

These injuries are characterized by the rapid acceleration and then deceleration of the head and neck during an impact, such as a car crash. CAD injuries may involve damage to the ligaments, tendons, muscles, and other structures in the cervical spine. The term “CAD” is often used in the context of motor vehicle crashes due to its greater specificity. It is also important because the typical forward flexion extension injury we picture in our mind is not necessary for this injury mechanism. In many cases, the overall movement of the head and neck can be rather small.

What Are The Symptoms Of CAD Injuries?

Cervical Acceleration-Deceleration (CAD) injuries can lead to a variety of symptoms. The symptoms may vary in severity and presentation among individuals, and they may not always be immediately apparent. Here are some common symptoms associated with CAD injuries:

Neck Pain

Pain in the neck is a hallmark symptom of CAD injuries. The pain may be localized or radiate to other areas of the neck.


One of the frequent complaints following CAD injuries is stiffness in the neck, where the range of motion is limited.


Pain starting at the base of the skull are common. These headaches may be tension-type or have characteristics of cervicogenic headaches.

Shoulder and Upper Back Pain

Pain in the shoulders and upper back can result from the forceful movement of the neck during the injury.

Arm Pain and Tingling

CAD injuries may cause pain, tingling, or numbness that radiates into the arms. This can be indicative of nerve involvement.

Dizziness/Concussive Symptoms

Some individuals may experience dizziness or lightheadedness, which can be associated with the rapid motion of the head during the injury.


Fatigue is a common symptom, possibly due to the stress and strain on the muscles and ligaments in the neck.

Visual Disturbances

Blurred vision or other visual disturbances can occur, often related to the impact on the cervical spine and surrounding structures.

Concentration and Memory Issues

Difficulty concentrating and memory issues may arise, potentially due to the impact of the injury on cognitive function.


Some individuals may experience irritability or mood changes, which can be associated with the overall discomfort and impact on daily life.

Sleep Disturbances

Difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep can be part of the symptomatology following CAD injuries.

Causes And Risk Factors

Cervical Acceleration-Deceleration (CAD) injuries can result from diverse factors and risk elements, encompassing various traumas and underlying conditions. A thorough comprehension of these factors is pivotal for effective prevention and treatment.

What Are The Causes?

The origins of Cervical Acceleration-Deceleration (CAD) injuries are varied, frequently entailing specific traumas and conditions.

  • Car Accidents: The most common cause is car accidents that result in the rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head and neck.
  • Sporting Accidents: High-impact sports, especially those with the potential for sudden stops or collisions, can lead to CAD injuries.
  • Physical Assaults: Forceful blows or impacts to the head and neck during physical altercations can result in CAD injuries.
  • Falls: Accidental falls, especially when the head undergoes rapid movement upon impact, can cause CAD injuries.
  • Recreational Activities: Activities such as amusement park rides or other recreational pursuits that involve sudden stops or jolts may contribute to CAD injuries.

What Are The Risk Factors?

Various factors influence injury susceptibility after Cervical Acceleration-Deceleration (CAD) events, often linked to whiplash. These contribute to the complexity of injury assessment and management, termed predisposing factors. Note that these differ from pre-existing conditions.

Some of the key risk factors include:

Age: Older individuals may be more susceptible to injury due to changes in the musculoskeletal structure and reduced flexibility in the neck.

Pre-existing Conditions: Individual with existing pre-conditions heighten risks for severe injuries and symptoms.

Previous Injuries: Individuals with a history of neck injuries may be at an increased risk of experiencing more severe symptoms or complications.

Occupation: Some occupations with repetitive neck movements may raise the risk of injury.

Gender: Studies strongly suggest that females are at a higher risk of sustaining injuries compared to males, due to differences in ligamentous strength, size, and musculature.

How Is CAD Injuries Diagnosed?

Diagnosing injuries after a Cervical Acceleration-Deceleration (CAD) event aims to identify and assess injuries to the cervical spine and associated structures. Here’s a detailed overview of how injuries are typically diagnosed after a CAD event:

Clinical History: This involves collecting information on the CAD event, injury mechanism, immediate symptoms, and later-developing complaints.

Physical Examination: A thorough examination is conducted to assess the range of motion, tenderness, swelling, and neurological signs.

Neurological Examination: This may involve testing reflexes, muscle strength, sensation, and coordination.

X-rays: Used to evaluate bone structures and alignment.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan: Provides detailed cross-sectional images of the spine, helpful for detecting fractures or other bony injuries.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Produces detailed images of soft tissues, such as discs, ligaments, and the spinal cord.

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