Imaging of the Cervical Spine > Fractures > Mechanism of Injury

Mechanism of Injury

The cervical spine may be subjected to forces of different directions and magnitude. The most common mechanisms of cervical spine injury are hyperflexion, hyperextension and compression.

Hyperflexion refers to excessive flexion of the neck in the sagital plane. It results in disruption of the posterior ligament. A common cause of hyperflexion injury is diving in shallow water, which may result in flexion tear drop fracture.

Hyperextension refers to excessive extension of the neck in the sagital plane. A common cause of hyperextension injury is hitting the dash board in MVA, which may result in Hangman's fracture.

Axial compression refers to force applied directly over the vertex in the caudal direction. This compression force "like smashing a cracker" may result in Jefferson fracture, a bursting fracture on the atlas.

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