Athletic Training Corner - October 2011

Welcome to the Athletic Training Corner. Here you will find information on pertinent topics related to athletic injuries and/or performance. This information is updated monthly by Thompson Health's athletic training staff.

Each month’s topic will be relevant to the types of sports going on at the time. You can read the topic here or download a copy and share it.

October 2011
Proper Tackling: See What You Hit!

Catastrophic cervical spine injuries resulting in quadriplegia (paralysis of all four extremities) are among the most devastating injuries in sports.  Axial loading [HA1] is the primary mechanism for catastrophic cervical spine injuries.

Head-down contact is defined as initiating contact with the top or crown of the helmet.  It is the only technique that results in axial loading.

Spearing is the intentional use of a head-down contact technique.

These injuries occur most often to defensive players.  However, all players are at risk.  As emphasized in the high school and college rule books, making contact with the shoulder or chest while keeping the head up greatly reduces the risk of serious head and neck injury.

With the head up, the player can see when and how impact is about to occur.  This gives him or her the ability to prepare the neck musculature for impact.  The following tips will help to decrease serious cervical spine injuries:

  • Stricter officiating would bring more awareness to coaches and players about the effects of head-down contact.
  • Education on proper tackling techniques must be taught at the lowest levels of football.
  • Athletes should know, understand, and appreciate the risk of making head-down contact, regardless of intent. 
  • Formal team educational sessions should be held at least twice per season.
  • Educational programs should extend to television, radio, and print media to help increase awareness
  • Athletes should have a year-round supervised neck-strengthening program.

Things to do in the event that a possible C-Spine injury occurs:
  • Never move a player with a suspected spine injury
  • The Athletic Trainer on duty will stabilize the Cervical Spine and activate EMS; in some cases an ambulance will already be at the game
  • All schools should have an Emergency Action Plan in place
  • The facemask will be removed if access to the airway is needed
  • It is important to make sure all helmets are refurbished each year, so that facemask removal will be as easy as possible
  • Do not remove the helmet and/or shoulder pads. When on together, they help to stabilize the cervical spine
  • The player will be log-rolled if necessary and spine boarded
  • The person stabilizing the head is always in charge.  All movements should be done on his or her count!

If you have any questions, please contact Jeremy Herniman in the Sports Medicine Center at (585) 396-6700.