Low-Velocity Motor Vehicle Collision Characteristics Associated with Claimed Low Back Pain

Traffic Injury Prevention 2019; Vol. 20; No. 4; pp. 419-423

Kayla M. Fewster, Robert J. Parkinson, Jack P. Callaghan: From the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.


Low back pain (LBP) is a pervasive health concern, affecting a significant portion of the global population. This study delves into the intriguing nexus of low-velocity motor vehicle collisions and claims of LBP, shedding light on the complexities surrounding injury reports, collision characteristics, and pre-existing medical conditions. As the first investigation to scrutinize medical history associated with claimed LBP in low-speed collisions, the findings challenge conventional notions and underscore the need for a nuanced understanding of the factors contributing to post-collision low back pain.

Key Points from the Study:

  • Magnitude of the LBP Challenge:
    • LBP stands as a major contributor to rising healthcare costs and disability, impacting 70–85% of all adults at some point in their lives.
  • Claims of LBP After Low-Velocity Collisions:
    • Claims of lumbar injury and pain frequently emerge after low-velocity collisions, even with minimal vehicle damage and negative radiographic evidence. Previous studies suggest that 27–60% of claims of LBP follow motor vehicle collisions.
  • Prevalence of LBP in the Study:
    • In this study, 77% of cases reported low back pain, with 70% of LBP cases associated with rear-end collisions.
    • 78% of claimants were the drivers of the vehicle, and 40% of cases were considered low-velocity collisions with speeds between 10 and 12 km/h.
  • Correlation with Collision Severity:
    • Low-speed rear-end collisions with severity levels of 13 km/h or less were most commonly associated with claims of LBP.
  • Pre-existing Medical Conditions:
    • Pre-existing LBP and lumbar spine disc degeneration were prevalent in cases with reported LBP, emphasizing the role of prior conditions in post-collision pain claims.
  • Link Between Whiplash and LBP:
    • The study highlights a very high correlation between LBP and whiplash-associated disorders (WAD), particularly in rear-end impact configurations.
  • Impact of Bumper Design:
    • Automotive bumpers, designed to withstand substantial collision forces at low speeds without significant deformation, pose challenges in determining impact-related change in velocity.
  • Temporal Onset of Symptoms:
    • Symptoms following low-speed rear-end collisions typically manifest within 24 hours after the impact, pointing to the delayed onset of post-collision pain.
  • Risk Factors and Recurrence:
    • Individuals with a history of LBP are at a higher risk of redeveloping LBP following a low-to moderate-speed collision, emphasizing the importance of considering past medical history in assessing post-collision outcomes.
  • Implications for Future Research:
    • The study underscores the need for further research to comprehensively understand the complex interplay of factors influencing LBP claims in low-velocity collisions.


This investigation contributes valuable insights into the intricate relationship between low-velocity motor vehicle collisions and claims of low back pain. The findings challenge preconceptions about the association between collision severity and reported pain, highlighting the nuanced nature of post-collision health outcomes. As the study calls for continued research in this domain, it underscores the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and addressing the complexities of low back pain claims arising from low-speed collisions.