High school football-related cervical spinal cord injuries in Louisiana: the athlete's perspective

J La State Med Soc. 1997 Jan;149(1):27-31.


Louisiana has one of the highest rates in the nation of cervical spinal cord injuries to high school football players. When the national rate of these injuries is applied to the number of high school participants in Louisiana, we would expect there to be only one catastrophic neck injury every 14 years. Louisiana, however, has averaged 2.3 spinal cord injuries per year for the past seven football seasons. Players who use the top of their helmets to tackle, block, or strike opponents are at greatest risk for these injuries. This study was undertaken to describe the safe tackling knowledge, attitudes, and practices of Louisiana high school football players. We surveyed 596 players from 16 Louisiana high schools. When asked if it was within the rules to tackle anyone by using the top of their helmet, 29% incorrectly answered "yes". Similarly, when asked if they had ever tackled anyone using the top of their helmet, 33% reported that they had. Twenty-eight percent said that they had been taught to use this unsafe method. Of these, 83% said that their coach taught them this dangerous and illegal method. Using the helmet as a battering ram must be discouraged. Education for officials, coaches, and players is needed to improve recognition of improper tackling. Proper training in tackling and blocking is an important means of minimizing the possibility of catastrophic injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Football / injuries*
  • Head Protective Devices
  • Health Education
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Louisiana / epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / epidemiology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / prevention & control*