While the mechanism of sudden forceful flexion or extension of the neck producing injuries to the ligaments bones, and nerves of the neck has long been known, the term "whiplash injury" appears not to have been used in the medical literature until 1945 when it was first used by Davis. In his paper he analyzed 134 injuries of the cervical spine resulting from automobile accidents. Since then the term has been used to designate injuries to the neck or cervical spine which result from sudden forward or backward motion of the head, excluding the obviously catastrophic injuries resulting in complete paralysis or death from severe dislocation or fracture. The accident frequently appears trivial and the victim may not be aware of serious injury to the neck immediately following the incident but later may be afflicted with disabling or annoying pain.
Robert R. Wise, Radiographic Aspects of Whiplash Injury of the Cervical Spine, 6 Clev.-Marshall L. Rev. 499 (1957)