The epidemiologic, pathologic, biomechanical, and cinematographic analysis of football-induced cervical spine trauma

Am J Sports Med. Jan-Feb 1990;18(1):50-7. doi: 10.1177/036354659001800109.


Epidemiologic, pathologic, biomechanical, and cinematographic data on head and neck injuries occurring in tackle football have been compiled since 1971 by the National Football Head and Neck Injury Registry. Preliminary analysis performed in 1975 indicated that the majority of serious cervical spine football injuries were caused by axial loading. Based on this observation, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and National Federation of High School Athletic Associations (NFHSAA) implemented rule changes banning "spearing" and the use of the top of the helmet as the initial point of contact in striking an opponent during a tackle or block. Between 1976 and 1987, as a result of these rule changes, the Registry has documented a dramatic decrease in both the total number of cervical spine injuries and those resulting in quadriplegia at both the high school and college level. It is suggested that development and implementation of similar preventative measures based on clearly defined injury mechanisms would decrease injury rates in diving, rugby, ice hockey, trampolining, wrestling, and other high-risk sports as well.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / physiopathology
  • Football / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Motion Pictures
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology