Whiplash is a ‘myth’, says leading Irish neurosurgeon

UCC lecturer says whiplash is ‘multi-billion euro gravy train for the medical profession’

Whiplash is a “myth” driven by medical professionals writing reports detailing “mainly non-existent” injuries, according to a leading neurosurgeon.

UCC lecturer Dr Charles Marks claims whiplash, along with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, soft tissue injury and chronic pain syndrome, were "created by the medical profession in the second half of the 20th century," despite a lack of scientific evidence.

“Labelling people as suffering from one of these conditions provides them with various forms of secondary gain – and, in the case of whiplash and soft tissue injury, plenty of hard cash from compensation claims.”

Dr Marks, who has retired from clinical practice, said whiplash has helped provide a good living for physicians, physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, spinal surgeons, dentists, psychiatrists, psychologists and lawyers.


“Whiplash in certain (but not all) affluent countries is big business, a multi-billion euro gravy train for the medical profession, victims and lawyers.”

Contrasting the higher level of insurance awards in Ireland compared to the UK, France or Germany, he says “Irish spines seem to be more fragile than those of our European neighbours”.

Motor injury claims

Whiplash accounts for 80 per cent of motor injury claims and 33 per cent of motor claims costs, according to Insurance Ireland. In France, it accounts for just 3 per cent of claims.

Claims are difficult to defend in court because it is easy for claimants to provide corroborating evidence and where conflicting medical experts give evidence, a generous award is invariably made, according to the organisation.

Dr Marks, writing in The Irish Times, says a tiny proportion of collision victims may sustain a slipped disc in the spine but all whiplash injuries are minor and moderate or permanent whiplash is "simply non-existent".

His view conflicts with that of the Injuries Board, which states whiplash injuries can involve a very minor sprain that heals within days or weeks or can in extreme cases cause “long lasting pain and permanent injury”.

Dr Marks said doctors are the usual “whipping boys” for encouraging injury claims, but others are equally blameworthy. Motor insurers “collude” in the rise of compensation culture by making unsolicited offers of compensation for whiplash before medical examinations have been provided.

Dr Marks previously lambasted the Medical Council for its procedures after he was sanctioned in 2015 in relation to his treatment of a patient.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.