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Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) resulting from sports now represent 8.9% of the total causes of SCI. Regardless of cause, there are bound to be return-to-play decisions to be made for athletes. Since catastrophic cervical spine injuries are among the most devastating injuries in all of sports, returning from a cervical spine injury is one of the most difficult decisions in sports medicine. Axial loading is the primary mechanism for catastrophic cervical spine injuries. Axial loading occurs as a result of intentional or unintentional head-down contact and spearing. Most would agree that the athlete returning to a contact or collision sport after a cervical spine injury must be asymptomatic, have full strength, and have full active range of motion; however, each situation is unique. The following review discusses the pathophysiology of these conditions and suggests guidelines for return to contact sports after traumatic cervical SCI.


Robert C Cantu, Yan Michael Li, Mohamed Abdulhamid, Lawrence S Chin. Return to play after cervical spine injury in sports. Current sports medicine reports. 2013 Jan-Feb;12(1):14-7

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PMID: 23314078

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