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Spine Institute
Glendale Adventist Medical Center
1500 E. Chevy Chase Drive, Suite 401B
Glendale, CA 91206
Ph: (818) 863-4444

Spine - Cervical
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To Play or Not to Play? Doctors Have Different Opinions

Posted on: 06/26/2001
If you have a neck injury in your sport, the decision to head back to the track or field may be a tough one. Many athletes rely on doctors and other health providers for advice. But how consistent is their advice, and what is it based on?

In this study, 113 orthopedic doctors reviewed the cases of 10 athletes who had sustained neck injuries. The doctors were asked to select which types of sport they would feel comfortable recommending to each athlete based on the injury. Types of sport ranged from collision sports (football, hockey) to contact sports (lacrosse, basketball) to various noncontact sports (skiing, gymnastics, golf).

Doctors generally agreed that collision and contact sports were riskier than noncontact sports. However, they had different opinions about which levels of sport were safe for the athletes in question.

Although half of the doctors reported using published medical guidelines to form their opinions, their advice didn't always match these guidelines. More often, their recommendations related to the length of their careers and their areas of specialty. Doctors who had been practicing medicine longer tended to okay lower risk sports than those who were newer to medicine. Specialists in sports medicine tended to suggest lower risk sports than doctors who specialized in treatment of the spine.

This study suggests that if you go for a second opinion, that's probably what you'll get. The wide range of opinions can be confusing. Researchers hope that further study of the risks involved with returning to sport after a neck injury will clear up some of the guesswork for athletes.

Christina Morganti, MD, et al. Return to Play After Cervical Spine Injury. In Spine. May 15, 2001. Vol. 26. No. 10. Pp. 1131-1136.

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