Cervical Spine Injuries in the Athlete

J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2016 Sep;24(9):e122-33. doi: 10.5435/JAAOS-D-15-00716.


Cervical spine injuries are extremely common and range from relatively minor injuries, such as cervical muscle strains, to severe, life-threatening cervical fractures with spinal cord injuries. Although cervical spine injuries are most common in athletes who participate in contact and collision sports, such as American football and rugby, they also have been reported in athletes who participate in noncontact sports, such as baseball, gymnastics, and diving. Cervical spine injuries in athletes are not necessarily the result of substantial spine trauma; some athletes have chronic conditions, such as congenital stenosis, that increase their risk for a serious cervical spine injury after even minor trauma. Therefore, physicians who cover athletic events must have a thorough knowledge of cervical spine injures and the most appropriate ways in which they should be managed. Although cervical spine injuries can be career-ending injuries, athletes often are able to return to play after appropriate treatment if the potential for substantial re-injury is minimized.

Publication types

  • Lecture

MeSH terms

  • Athletes*
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Humans
  • Return to Sport
  • Spinal Injuries / etiology*