Injuries to the neck or cervical spine are frequent among football players. Dr. James Farmer, Orthopedic Surgeon and former Notre Dame football player, explains what might put you at risk and how to avoid an injury to the neck. “Injuries tend to become more common as players’ size and speed increase. The frequency of injury becomes more common from high school on through the professional level. Preventing injuries is important so that athletes can continue to play at a high level,” says Dr. Farmer.
1. To prevent and reduce the number of injuries to the neck among football players, proper fitting equipment is important. Specifically, well fitting helmets and shoulder pads are very important. Determining the type and size of protective gear worn should be supervised by an equipment manager who has knowledge of the various types of helmets and shoulder pads that are available.
2. Another key to preventing injury is proper conditioning and strengthening. Exercises that strengthen your whole body, including the neck muscles is essential. Proper cardiovascular conditioning is also important. Being too fatigued raises the chance of injury.
3. If you do get injured, proper rehabilitation under the supervision of a doctor and athletic trainer or physical therapist is important. Before getting back on the field you should feel no pain, have a normal neurological examination, and have full range of motion when moving and turning your neck.
4. Perhaps the most important way to prevent injuries to the neck is for coaches to teach proper tackling techniques. Improper tackling can lead to serious neck injuries, including muscular problems, dislocations of the neck, or injury to the nerves and spinal cord. Proper tackling techniques must be stressed at all levels, from young players through the professional ranks.