Three intact cadavers and 10 isolated cervical spinal columns underwent compression, with forces directed vertically, forward, or rearward. Failure modes were often different than force directions. The loads required to produce bony injury or ligamentous disruption ranged from 645 to 7439 N. Flexion and extension injuries were produced at approximately 50% of the loads required for axial compression failures. The direction of force delivery correlated only partially with the resulting pathological condition. Clinical decisions based on retrospective analysis of roentgenograms may not account for the variability of forces and the prominence of ligament injuries seen in spinal trauma. Some of the difficulties encountered in biomechanical analyses of spinal trauma are discussed.
Keywords: Cervical spine; Compression injury; Ligament injury; Spinal trauma; Spine biomechanics; Spine fracture