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Head-Banging Can Cause Whiplash

March 22, 1994|LESLIE KNOWLTON

Parents take note: When your child comes back from that junior high school dance complaining of neck pain, there may be a simple explanation for it.

Boston University School of Medicine neurologist Dr. Marilyn Kassirer found that head-banging--the nationwide dance fad involving jerking the head back and forth to a hard-rock beat--can cause whiplash that lasts about three days.

Her recent study was prompted by an eighth-grade neighbor who said her neck hurt. Discovering that the teen-ager had been to a seven-hour dance marathon, Kassirer surveyed 36 other students from the same event.

About half the dancers had engaged in head-banging. Of those, 82% of the girls and 16% of the boys suffered "aching and twinging" pains in their necks. Of non-headbangers, only 26% of girls and no boys suffered pain.

Why more pain in girls?

"They have longer hair," says Kassirer, who published her findings in the Clinical Journal of Pain. "They try to get it moving in a flow pattern, hyper-flexing and rotating their necks, pushing their heads to the limit and beyond. It's the equivalent of having an auto accident."

Although the resulting pain is generally of limited duration, children with spine abnormalities may be at risk for more serious injury.

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