Catastrophic head and neck injuries in judo players in Japan from 2003 to 2010

Am J Sports Med. 2013 Aug;41(8):1915-21. doi: 10.1177/0363546513490662. Epub 2013 Jun 13.


Background: Few studies have documented catastrophic head and neck injuries in judo, but these injuries deserve greater attention.

Purpose: To determine the features of catastrophic head and neck injuries in judo.

Study design: Descriptive epidemiological study.

Methods: This study was based on the accident reports submitted to the All Japan Judo Federation's System for Compensation for Loss or Damage. A total of 72 judo injuries (30 head, 19 neck, and 23 other injuries) were reported between 2003 and 2010. The investigated parameters were mechanism of injury, age at time of injury, length of judo experience, diagnosis, and outcome.

Results: Among head injuries, 27 of 30 (90%) occurred in players younger than 20 years of age. The relationship between age, mechanism, and location of injury was more relevant when players younger than 20 years incurred head injury while being thrown (P = .0026). Among neck injuries, 13 of 19 (68%) occurred in players with more than 36 months of experience. The relationship between experience, mechanism, and location of injury was more relevant when experienced players incurred neck injury while executing an offensive maneuver (P = .0294). Acute subdural hematoma was diagnosed in 94% of head injuries. The outcomes of head injury were as follows: 15 players died; 5 were in a persistent vegetative state; 6 required assistance because of higher brain dysfunction, hemiplegia, or aphasia; and 4 had full recovery. Among neck injuries, 18 players were diagnosed with cervical spine injury, 11 of whom had fracture-dislocation of the cervical vertebra; there was also 1 case of atlantoaxial subluxation. The outcomes of neck injury were as follows: 7 players had complete paralysis, 7 had incomplete paralysis, and 5 had full recovery.

Conclusion: Neck injuries were associated with having more experience and executing offensive maneuvers, whereas head injuries were associated with age younger than 20 years and with being thrown.

Keywords: acute subdural hematoma; head injuries; judo; neck injuries; spinal cord injury.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / diagnosis
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / etiology
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Martial Arts / injuries*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Injuries / diagnosis
  • Neck Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Neck Injuries / etiology
  • Neck Injuries / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult