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(1) To identify risk factors for chronic disability in people with acute whiplash associated disorders (WAD). (2) To estimate the impact of the numbers of risk factors present.Prospective cohort study. Data were collected, on average, 32 days after injury (SD=10.9) and 12 months later. Baseline measures of pain, disability, neck movement, psychological and behavioural factors were independent variables and chronic disability at 12 months was the dependent variable in a multivariable logistic regression analysis.National Health Service physiotherapy departments.Participants (n=599) with symptoms 3 weeks after injury, self-referred to physiotherapy as part of a randomised controlled trial. 430 (72%) participants provided complete data for this analysis.Chronic disability based on Neck Disability Index scores.136 (30%) participants developed chronic disability. High baseline disability (OR 3.3, 95% CI 1.97 to 5.55), longer predicted recovery time (OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.45 to 3.87), psychological distress (OR 1.9, 95%CI 1.05 to 3.51), passive coping (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.07 to 2.97) and greater number of symptoms (OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.07 to 2.78) were associated with chronic disability. One risk factor resulted in 3.5 times the risk (95% CI 1.04 to 11.45) of chronic disability but this risk increased to 16 times (95%CI 5.36 to 49.27) in those with four or five risk factors.Baseline disability had the strongest association with chronic disability but psychological and behavioural factors were also important. Treatment strategies should reflect this which may require a change to current physiotherapy approaches for acute WAD. The number of risk factors present should be considered when evaluating potential for poor outcome.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





34 - 43


Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, University of Oxford, United Kingdom. Electronic address:


Humans, Neck Pain, Whiplash Injuries, Acute Disease, Pain Measurement, Disability Evaluation, Prognosis, Treatment Outcome, Injury Severity Score, Confidence Intervals, Odds Ratio, Risk Assessment, Risk Factors, Cohort Studies, Prospective Studies, Psychology, Female, Male, Physical Therapy Modalities, Diagnostic Self Evaluation, Chronic Pain, United Kingdom