During collision sports, such as football, the most common type of traumatic neck injury involves fracture, dislocation, or ligamentous disruption of the subaxial cervical spine. These are typically due to axial loading mechanisms which, in football, most commonly occur during spear tackling by defensive backs.
Boden et al retrospectively reviewed 196 incidents of catastrophic high school and collegiate football neck injuries over a 13 year period. The events resulted in fracture, dislocation, or major ligamentous injury at a subaxial cervical level in 95 athletes, at the C1 or C2 level (or both) in 9 athletes, at combined upper and lower levels in 7 athletes, and at an unknown level in 41 athletes. In addition, 43 athletes were diagnosed with cervical cord neurapraxia, and 1 athlete had a cervical nerve root avulsion. Playing the defensive back position and spear tackling were shown to be the greatest risk factors for these fracture and dislocation type neck injuries.
Boden BP, Tacchetti RL, Cantu RC, Knowles SB, Mueller FO. Catastrophic cervical spine injuries in high school and college football players. Am J Sports Med. 2006 Aug;34(8):1223-32. Epub 2006 Jun 30.
PMID:16816152 (Link to Abstract)
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