Whiplash is a term most commonly used when describing a car accident. The effects of whiplash and mechanism of injury, however, are not just reserved for the road.
Whiplash is a descriptive term used to describe the sudden snapping of the unsupported head. In a car accident, the seat belt will hold the body in place while the head is forced into hyperflexion and extension. This motion is also seen in many contact sports such as football and hockey.
When a quarterback is getting ready to make a throw and a 300 lb lineman hits him hard from the back, the head again is forced into hyperextension just as in a car accident. This is also seen in hockey when a player gets hit from behind. In both sports, the athletes have chest protectors to absorb the impact on the body and helmets to protect the head, but there is nothing to stop the movement of the head on the neck.
Whiplash is a serious injury that can occur in many different ways, but the effects are usually similar and can be chronic and intense if not properly cared for.