To investigate the relationship between the type of hyperextension injuries and the conditions producing them, nine cervical specimens (occiput to T1) were loaded to failure in tension at a fixed extension angle of 30°. Under these loading conditions, specimens failed at average tensile loads and extension moments of 499 ± 148 (SD) N and 4.0 ± 3.1 Nm, respectively. Failure occurred at an average tensile displacement of 18.8 ± 7.7 mm. The anterior longitudinal ligament reptured and the intervertebral disc failed in at least one level in all specimens. In four specimens, the disc failed at an additional level, leaving the anterior longitudinal ligament intact at that site. With one exception, all injuries occurred in the lower cervical spine (C5‐C6 and C6‐C7), the region most often injured in vivo. The location of the injuries was associated with the degree of degeneration of the facet joints and the discs. The discs of the lower cervical spine were significantly more degenerated than those at the C2‐C3 level. In addition, the degree of disc degeneration in the noninjured discs was significantly less than in the injured discs. These data help quantify the threshold of injury and the patterns of tissue damage resulting from hyperextension loading of the cervical spine.
Keywords: Cervical spine; Degeneration; Disc; Hyperextension; Biomechanics