Sports Medicine

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 59–75

The Pathomechanics, Pathophysiology and Prevention of Cervical Spinal Cord and Brachial Plexus Injuries in Athletics

Review Article

DOI: 10.2165/11319650-000000000-00000

Cite this article as:
Chao, S., Pacella, M.J. & Torg, J.S. Sports Med (2010) 40: 59. doi:10.2165/11319650-000000000-00000


Cervical spinal cord injuries may occur with catastrophic sequelae (e.g. quadriplegia) in collision sport activities. The discovery was made that the head-down tackling technique in football straightens the spine into a position vulnerable for compression and, thus, is responsible for these incidents. This led to rule changes requiring head-up tackling, which in turn resulted in the reduction of the incidence of these injuries. However, the dramatic initial reduction in the occurrence — from 32 and 34 catastrophic injuries in 1975 and 1976, respectively, down to 12 in 1977 — has levelled off with ten and eight reported cases in 2006 and 2007, respectively. The football community has increased their efforts to prevent head-down tackling with additional rule changes. Brachial plexus injury prevention must rely on properly fitted shoulder pads and use of equipment such as ‘cowboy’ collars. Furthermore, physicians must take into consideration cervical cord neurapraxia, congenital stenosis and other risk factors in patients who wish to return to contact sports.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon Chao
    • 1
  • Marisa J. Pacella
    • 1
  • Joseph S. Torg
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports MedicineTemple University School of MedicinePhiladelphiaUSA

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