Athletes twist and turn their spines during athletic competition, so it stands to reason that back injuries are pretty common, especially at the collegiate level. Recently, a study published in Spine decided to take a closer look at when, where and how these injuries occurred among college athletes. In today’s blog, we take a closer look cervical spine injuries among college athletes.
Spine Injuries In College Athletics
For their study, researchers examined more than 11,500 cervical spine and neck injuries that occurred among NCAA athletes over a five-year period. After reviewing the injury data, researchers were able to parse out some interesting conclusions. They found:
- The rate of cervical spine injuries was 7.05 injuries per 100,000 athlete exposures.
- When sporting activities were comparable between the sexes, men were 1.26 times more likely to report a cervical spine or neck injury than women.
- The men’s sport with the highest rate of cervical spine or neck injuries was football at 29.09 per 100,000 athlete exposures.
- The women’s sport with the highest rate of cervical spine or neck injuries was field hockey, with 11.51 per 100,000 athlete exposures.
- Injuries during games or competitions were four times more likely than during practice.
- The majority of injuries were classified as minor, with most athletes returning to athletic activity within 24 hours.
While the findings aren’t exactly groundbreaking, they do help to shine a light on how certain sports can put our head and neck at risk. It’s not surprising that football led the list, as players often lower their head and absorb contact in the area which is then channeled directly to the cervical spine. Field hockey injury rates are a little more surprising, but it is quite a physical sport in terms of contact, motions required and even the potential to be injured by equipment.
Not all neck and cervical spine injuries are preventable during athletic competition, but coaches and players can benefit from practicing ideal form and biomechanics to help reduce their risk. All involved in sports should also be on the lookout for spotting neck injuries, because trying to play through a neck injury can have devastating consequences. Although the majority of injuries in the study were minor, they could easily get worse if the athlete continues to try and play through the injury.
Regardless of whether you’re a competitive athlete, a weekend warrior or simply trying to exercise and stay healthy, if you suffer a neck or spine injury, shut it down for the day and take care of your body. Give yourself some time to heal, and if you need help with any aspect of your recovery, reach out to Dr. Chang and his experienced medical team today.