A review of 107 footballers who suffered a spinal-cord injury between 1960 and 1985 has been undertaken. Since 1977, the number of such injuries in Rugby Union, Rugby League and Australian Rules has increased, from an average of about two injuries a year before 1977 to over eight injuries a year since then. Rugby Union is clearly the most dangerous game, particularly for schoolboys; all of the injuries in schoolboy games for this code have occurred since 1977. This study has shown that collision at scrum engagement, and not at scrum collapse, is the way in which the majority of scrum injuries are sustained. These injuries are largely preventable, and suggestions for rule changes are made. Half the injured players recovered to Frankel grades D or E. The financial entitlements of those injured were grossly inadequate; this warrants action. A national register for spinal-cord injuries from football should be established to monitor the effects of desirable rule changes in Rugby Union and Rugby League.