Objective: To simulate horizontally aligned head-first impacts with initial head protrusion using a human cadaveric neck model and to determine biomechanical responses, injuries, and injury severity.
Design: Head-first impacts with initial head protrusion were simulated at 2.4 m/s using a human cadaver neck model (n = 10) mounted horizontally to a torso-equivalent mass on a sled and carrying a surrogate head. Macroscopic neck injuries were determined, and ligamentous injuries were quantified using fluoroscopy and visual inspection after the impacts. Representative time-history responses for injured specimens were determined during impact using load cell data and analyses of high-speed video.
Setting: Biomechanics research laboratory.
Participants: Cervical spines of 10 human cadavers.
Main Outcome Measures: Injury severity at the middle and lower cervical spine was statistically compared using a 2-sample t test (P < 0.05).
Results: Neck buckling consisted of hyperflexion at C6/7 and C7/T1 and hyperextension at superior spinal levels. Noncontiguous neck injuries included forward dislocation at C7/T1, spinous process fracture and compression–extension injuries at the middle cervical spine, and atlas and odontoid fractures. Ligamentous injury severity at C7/T1 was significantly greater than at the middle cervical spine.
Conclusions: Distinct injury mechanisms were observed throughout the neck, consisting of extension–compression and posterior shear at the upper and middle cervical spine and flexion–compression and anterior shear at C6/7 and C7/T1. Our experimental results highlight the importance of clinical awareness of potential noncontiguous cervical spine injuries due to head-first sports impacts.