A Cross-Cultural Comparison Between Canada and Germany of Symptom Expectation for Whiplash Injury

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Objective:Symptom expectation for whiplash injury has been shown to be low in countries with low rates of chronic whiplash when compared with countries like Canada, where chronic whiplash is common. The objective of the current study is to compare the frequency and nature of expected “whiplash” symptoms in Germany with that in Canada.Methods:A symptom checklist was administered to two subject groups selected from local companies in Germany and Canada. Subjects were asked to imagine having suffered a neck sprain (whiplash injury) with no loss of consciousness in a motor vehicle collision and to check which, of a variety of symptoms, they would expect might arise from the injury. For symptoms they anticipated, they were asked to select the period of time they expected those symptoms to persist.Results:In both groups, the pattern of acute symptoms anticipated closely resembled the symptoms of acute whiplash victims, but 50% of Canadians also anticipated symptoms to last months or years, whereas few German subjects selected any symptoms as likely to persist.Conclusions:In Germany, despite the documented occurrence of neck sprain symptoms in individuals following motor vehicle collisions, there is a very low rate of expectation of any sequelae from this injury. The current or previous aspects of society that underlie this remain uncertain. This lack of expectation of chronicity in Germany may, in part, determine the low prevalence of the chronic whiplash syndrome there. Further studies of symptom expectation as an etiologic factor in the chronic whiplash syndrome are needed.

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