Age-related changes in the cervical spines of front-line rugby players

Am J Sports Med. 1999 Jul-Aug;27(4):422-9. doi: 10.1177/03635465990270040401.


Cervical spine trauma occurs frequently in front-line rugby players. To evaluate the accumulative effects of this trauma, magnetic resonance imaging scans of the cervical spine were performed on 47 rugby players and 40 age-matched control subjects. The aim of this study was to compare the changes in the cervical spine of players at different points in their careers. A study of cervical spine changes, including spinal curve, spinal constituents, posttraumatic deformities, and degenerative modifications, was completed by a study of cervical measurements. Front-line rugby players showed more early degenerative alterations on magnetic resonance imaging scans than did the control subjects of the same age. These changes correlated with age and were probably linked with repetitive cervical trauma throughout the players' careers. Particular attention should be paid to the data confirming cervical spine canal stenosis in front-line players, which may place these athletes at risk for acute neurapraxia while playing this collision sport.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cervical Vertebrae / pathology*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / pathology
  • Football* / injuries
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / etiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male