Whiplash is caused by the head and neck being thrown back and forth, usually due to sudden acceleration or deceleration. This causes damage to the soft tissue in the neck.

This poses a very obvious, very important question:

Why don’t superheroes get whiplash?

Here are the in-universe answers to that question.

What’s The Problem?

The alien superhero archetype is very strong, very tough and usually able to fly. They often catch enormous objects, plummet to the earth from space in a matter of seconds, and use their great strength to accelerate very quickly.

They also survive impacts from the side and behind on a regular basis.

Any one of these events would cause moderate or severe whiplash in a normal human (along with other problems, like being two inches thick and extremely wide).

How Do They Deal With It?

The alien’s body is naturally adapted to rapid acceleration and deceleration. Maybe they’re extremely strong, maybe they’ve adapted to space travel, or maybe they’re just really springy. Either way, they don’t have the fragile bodies human beings do, at least not in Earth’s atmosphere and gravity.

The Speedster

Examples: Flash, Quicksilver

What’s The Problem?

Whiplash is typically caused by rapid acceleration and deceleration, making the head whip back and forth rapidly. An extremely fast superhero usually moves in the blink of an eye, covering large distances in a fraction of a second.

Moving that fast would cause any human to develop whiplash.

How Do They Deal With It?

These speedy superheroes accelerate all at once, and predictably, so the momentum is not transferred to the head.

If they were to pass out while running, going limp, it might be the case that their head would snap back and forward from the sudden deceleration – they can avoid whiplash just by making sure they’re properly prepared. In this way, they’re not so different from ordinary people.

The Technological

I am Iron Man!

Image by Christelle

Examples: Iron Man, Batman, Hardware

What’s The Problem?

These characters are almost always seen using really fast vehicles, armoured suits and gadgets to accelerate at amazing speeds from place to place. This means that a dramatic explosion and crash is inevitable, as everyone wants to see the Batmobile crash through the wall of some villain’s lair.

Strangely enough, these superheroes always survive their high impact, high speed collisions without a scratch on them, even though they’re only human.

How Do They Deal With It?

The great thing about futuristic technology is that you can imagine any effect you want. The Iron Man suit somehow absorbs the impact with a miraculous gel, or perhaps the Batmobile has an amazing crumple zone that completely prevents any momentum transferring to the driver.

If they’re really in trouble, a superhero like this can always just claim that they learned it from a book or ancient monastery – these guys tend to be super-geniuses as well as having access to the most sophisticated technology on the planet.

The Cosmic

Examples: Green Lantern, The Living Tribunal

What’s The Problem?

There isn’t one. These heroes can twist the fabric of space-time itself to suit their needs – I think once you’re at that stage, you can probably avoid whiplash.

Dealing With Whiplash

Of course, in the real world there are no superheroes. That means that even small accidents at low speeds can result in serious damage to your quality of life.

Before dismissing the possibility, get checked out by a doctor – don’t be a hero!