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The objective was to identify tackling techniques that contribute to cervical spinal cord injuries. First, the 19 tackles in the Prevent Paralysis II VHS documentary resulting in quadriplegia were analyzed for location, that is, above, at, or below the waist, direction, and head position, up or down. Second, records were kept for the same information on 3046 high school, college, and professional tackles during the 1993 season. Essentially, all tackles in the Prevent Paralysis II series were head down and resulted in quadriplegia. More than twice as many were below the waist rather than above the waist. Of the tackles below the waist, 83% were frontal and lateral at the level of the pelvis, thigh, or knee. Analysis of the 3046 tackles showed those below the waist were three times as likely to be head down, compared with tackles above the waist. Of the head down tackles below the waist, 83% were frontal or lateral at the level of the pelvis, thigh, or knee. It was concluded that head down tackling predisposes to cervical spine fracture/dislocations and spinal cord injury. The injury is most likely to occur when tackles are frontal and lateral at the level of the pelvis, thigh, and knee. Suggestions are to enforce penalties for head first contact and to establish rules that make tackling below the waist illegal except from behind, below the knee, and on initial contact in the existing 6 by 8 yd free blocking zone.
football, injuries, catastrophic, tackling, performance, incidence, risk factors
Retired physician, Chapel Hill, NC