In reports from the UK and New Zealand, it is noted that the incidence of rugby injuries to the cervical spinal cord has dropped and that the percentage of players injured in the tackle has similarly decreased. In contrast, this does not appear to be the pattern in South Africa and an analysis has therefore been made of 40 rugby players sustaining injuries to the spinal cord during the period 1985 to 1989. The radiological appearances on admission have been correlated with the circumstances of injury, associated orthopaedic injuries and neurological deficits. The tackle was responsible for the majority of injuries, causing more than the scrum. Tackles were also responsible for more cases of complete, permanent quadriplegia than the scrum. The commonest cause of injury in players being tackled was the high tackle around the neck, while the commonest cause of injury in players making the tackle was the dive tackle. This survey has shown that the tackle is now the major cause of spinal cord injury in South African rugby, in contrast to earlier analyses in which the scrum was identified as the most common cause.
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