Healy O'Connor

Whiplash- Is it a Myth?

When I was about 20 I hurt my back playing football. Basically, I got to the pitch late and didn’t warm up properly. I still managed to play the game after pulling something in my lower back early in the first half. We had no substitutes so I had no choice. Once the adrenaline had worn off I was in bits. I had to lie down on the floor at home and couldn’t sleep. Even a couple of weeks later when I was in a nightclub, my back froze up and I had to go and lie down in a mate’s house. I think I might have been dancing to Born Slippy by Underworld- it was the nineties- and my mate was busily trying to impress some French Students. Needless to say as I was carried off the dance floor my Wingman capabilities came into sharp focus. I left in my wake some deeply unimpressed French girls and a fairly irate Dublin man who claimed he was minutes from a very successful ‘exchange’. I was too sore to care. We are still friends to this day you might be interested to hear. He married a Kerry woman. Enough said.

Anyhow the point of all of this is that I have huge sympathy for our clients who come into our office having suffered a personal injury  in a car or work accident where their back or their neck has been injured. Maybe we have nice clients but I don’t imagine any of them have exaggerated their personal injuries to me. If anything most of them are embarrassed that they cant physically show their injuries. After all its easy to display where the machine at work sliced through their forehead (settled for 40k) or the medical team misdiagnosed an elderly patient’s eye problem leaving her blind ( settled for 140k). It’s not so easy saying that your back is killing you and you cant sleep at night.Except you can to me because I get it. I have never forgotten how my back hurt and to this day I take extra care when warming up before taking part in sport.

So it kind of grates when I read that UCC lecturer Dr Charles Marks claims whiplash was “created by the medical profession in the second half of the 20th century” (Irish Times 24-04-2017) or insultingly “Irish spines seem to be more fragile than most of our European neighbours”. His observance that “curiously Lithuanians, Greeks and demolition derby drivers appear to be immune to whiplash and recover from rear-end shunts and other minor road traffic accidents in a few days or weeks” is  like saying that because I can dance to most music then I should be able to put on a tutu and perform in Swan Lake. Both ludicrous propositions.

Meanwhile in England the head of Axa Amanda Blanc is claiming that its not us Irish actually  rather it’s them that “have the weakest necks in Europe” ( Sunday Times May 21st 2017). Well that’s a relief…

Look, I’m not a doctor but I have to be able to rely on my medical expert’s opinion as to the state of my client’s personal injury when prosecuting a claim. Indeed that’s all any of us lawyers can do. So until the so-called myth is busted I will keep stretching my back before I play a game of football and resolve to be a better wingman in the future!

Shane Healy

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