Occipital Padding Maintains Neutral Spine Alignment

In the event of football helmet removal, occipital padding maintains cervical spine alignment

THURSDAY, Aug. 25 (HealthDay News) -- The placement of padding beneath the occiput after helmet removal may be used as an effective measure to maintain neutral cervical spine alignment in the event of helmet removal among football athletes, according to a study published online Aug. 18 in Spine.

Laura C. Decoster, from the New Hampshire Musculoskeletal Institute in Manchester, and colleagues investigated whether placing a padding beneath the occiput after helmet removal is an effective intervention to maintain neutral sagittal cervical spine alignment in a position comparable to the helmeted condition in 20 male participants with average age of 23.6 years. Lateral radiographs were taken at four occasions, with participants wearing shoulder pads and a helmet, with helmet removed and occipital padding placed immediately, the same conditions 20 minutes later, and without occipital padding. An orthopedic spine surgeon assessed the Cobb angle measurements for C2-C6 vertebral segments. Intraclass coefficient (ICC) analysis was used to measure intraobservor reliability. Repeated measures of analysis of variance between groups (ANOVA) and post-hoc comparisons with Bonferroni correction were used to analyze the measurements.

The investigators found excellent reliability with intraobservor analysis (ICC = 1.0) and significant differences with repeated measured ANOVA. No difference was found in cervical alignment in pairwise comparisons, when comparing the baseline helmeted condition to the padded conditions (all measurements showed lordosis). Compared to the immediate and the 20-minute padded measurement (average 9.5 and 6.5 degrees, respectively), measurements taken after the removal of occipital padding (average, 14.4 degrees) showed a significant increase in cervical lordosis.

"If the helmet must be removed, occipital padding (along with full body/head immobilization techniques) may be used to maintain neutral sagittal cervical spine alignment until shoulder pads can be safely removed," the authors write.

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