Br J Sports Med 39:314-318 doi:10.1136/bjsm.2005.018200
  • Review

Preventing head and neck injury

  1. A S McIntosh1,
  2. P McCrory2
  1. 1School of Safety Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  2. 2University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr McIntosh
 University of New South Wales, School of Safety Science, Sydney 2052, Australia;
  • Accepted 1 March 2005


A wide range of head and neck injury risks are present in sport, including catastrophic injury. The literature since 1980 on prevention of head and neck injury in sport was reviewed, focusing on catastrophic and brain injury and identifying the range of injury prevention methods in use. There have been few formal evaluations of injury prevention methods. Approaches that are considered, or have been proven, to be successful in preventing injury include: modification of the baseball; implementation of helmet standards in ice hockey and American football and increased wearing rates; use of full faceguards in ice hockey; changes in rules associated with body contact; implementation of rules to reduce the impact forces in rugby scrums. Helmets and other devices have been shown to reduce the risk of severe head and facial injury, but current designs appear to make little difference to rates of concussion. Research methods involving epidemiological, medical, and human factors are required in combination with biomechanical and technological approaches to reduce further injury risks in sport.


  • Competing interests: none declared