Background: Contact sports place athletes at risk for cervical spine injury. Protective helmets and shoulder pads worn by football and ice hockey athletes alter cervical spine alignment. The effect of helmet and shoulder pads on neck alignment in lacrosse athletes is not known. Hypothesis: Helmets and shoulder pads worn by lacrosse athletes alter cervical spine alignment. Study Design: Controlled laboratory study. Methods: Sagittal plane cervical spine alignment was evaluated in 16 uninjured male collegiate lacrosse players using computed tomography. Patients were immobilized in the supine position on a standard spine board. Testing was performed without equipment, with both helmet and shoulder pads in place, and with the helmet removed. Angular measurements of the cervical spine were made and analyzed. Results: The presence of both the helmet and shoulder pads caused an increase in overall cervical extension (mean, 6°) compared with the absence of both pieces of equipment (P = .002). Helmet removal alone resulted in a mean increase in cervical flexion of 4.7° in the upper cervical spine compared with the presence of both pieces of equipment (P = .011). Compared with the absence of equipment, shoulder pads caused increased cervical flexion in the lower cervical spine (mean, 4.4°; P = .036). Conclusion: Protective equipment worn by lacrosse athletes causes statistically significant increases in cervical extension, and its removal causes statistically significant increases in cervical flexion. This alteration is different from that previously reported for protective equipment in football and ice hockey. Clinical Relevance: The authors' recommendation is that both lacrosse helmets and shoulder pads be left in place until they can be completely removed in a controlled fashion. The effect of external equipment on neck position is different for lacrosse compared with football and ice hockey.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation