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Joseph S. Torg, Thomas A. Corcoran, Lawrence E. Thibault, Helene Pavlov, Brian J. Sennett, R. John Naranja Jr. and Steven Priano

One hundred ten cases of the transient neurological phenomenon, cervical cord neurapraxia (CCN), are presented. The authors established a classification system for CCN, developed a new computerized measurement technique for magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, investigated the relationship of the cervical cord to the canal, and analyzed clinical, x-ray, and MR data. One hundred nine males and one female were included in the study; the average age of the participants was 21 years (range 13-33 years). All episodes occurred during sports participation; 87% occurred while the patient was playing football. Follow-up review lasting an average of 3.3 years was available for 105 patients (95%).

Narrowing of the sagittal diameter of the cervical canal in the adult spine was confirmed to be a causative factor. Cervical cord neurapraxia was not associated with permanent neurological injury and no permanent morbidity occurred in patients who returned to contact activities. Of the patients returning to contact activities, 35 (56%) experienced a recurrent episode. The risk of recurrence was increased with smaller spinal canal/vertebral body ratio (p < 0.05), smaller disc-level canal diameter (p < 0.05), and less space available for the cord (p < 0.05). There was no correlation between either the classification of the CCN episode or the disease noted on MR imaging and x-ray films and the risk of recurrence.

The authors conclude that: 1) CCN is a transient neurological phenomenon and individuals with uncomplicated CCN may be permitted to return to their previous activity without an increased risk of permanent neurological injury; 2) congenital or degenerative narrowing of the sagittal diameter of the cervical canal is a causative factor; 3) the overall recurrence rate after return to play is 56%; and 4) the risk of recurrence is strongly and inversely correlated with sagittal canal diameter and it is useful in the prediction of future episodes of CCN (p < 0.001). These data will enable the physician to counsel individuals regarding a predicted risk of recurrence based on canal measurements.

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Joseph S. Torg, Thomas A. Corcoran, Lawrence E. Thibault, Helene Pavlov, Brian J. Sennett, R. John Naranja Jr. and Steven Priano

✓ One hundred ten cases of the transient neurological phenomenon, cervical cord neurapraxia (CCN), are presented. The authors established a classification system for CCN, developed a new computerized measurement technique for magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, investigated the relationship of the cervical cord to the canal, and analyzed clinical, x-ray, and MR data. One hundred nine males and one female were included in the study; the average age of the participants was 21 years (range 13–33 years). All episodes occurred during sports participation; 87% occurred while the patient was playing football. Follow-up review lasting an average of 3.3 years was available for 105 patients (95%).

Narrowing of the sagittal diameter of the cervical canal in the adult spine was confirmed to be a causative factor. Cervical cord neurapraxia was not associated with permanent neurological injury and no permanent morbidity occurred in patients who returned to contact activities. Of the patients returning to contact activities, 35 (56%) experienced a recurrent episode. The risk of recurrence was increased with smaller spinal canal/vertebral body ratio (p < 0.05), smaller disc-level canal diameter (p < 0.05), and less space available for the cord (p < 0.05). There was no correlation between either the classification of the CCN episode or the disease noted on MR imaging and x-ray films and the risk of recurrence.

The authors conclude that: 1) CCN is a transient neurological phenomenon and individuals with uncomplicated CCN may be permitted to return to their previous activity without an increased risk of permanent neurological injury; 2) congenital or degenerative narrowing of the sagittal diameter of the cervical canal is a causative factor; 3) the overall recurrence rate after return to play is 56%; and 4) the risk of recurrence is strongly and inversely correlated with sagittal canal diameter and it is useful in the prediction of future episodes of CCN (p < 0.001). These data will enable the physician to counsel individuals regarding a predicted risk of recurrence based on canal measurements.

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The shaken baby syndrome

A clinical, pathological, and biomechanical study

Ann-Christine Duhaime, Thomas A. Gennarelli, Lawrence E. Thibault, Derek A. Bruce, Susan S. Margulies and Randall Wiser

✓ Because a history of shaking is often lacking in the so-called “shaken baby syndrome,” diagnosis is usually based on a constellation of clinical and radiographic findings. Forty-eight cases of infants and young children with this diagnosis seen between 1978 and 1985 at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia were reviewed. All patients had a presenting history thought to be suspicious for child abuse, and either retinal hemorrhages with subdural or subarachnoid hemorrhages or a computerized tomography scan showing subdural or subarachnoid hemorrhages with interhemispheric blood. The physical examination and presence of associated trauma were analyzed; autopsy findings for the 13 fatalities were reviewed. All fatal cases had signs of blunt impact to the head, although in more than half of them these findings were noted only at autopsy. All deaths were associated with uncontrollably increased intracranial pressure.

Models of 1-month-old infants with various neck and skull parameters were instrumented with accelerometers and shaken and impacted against padded or unpadded surfaces. Angular accelerations for shakes were smaller than those for impacts by a factor of 50. All shakes fell below injury thresholds established for subhuman primates scaled for the same brain mass, while impacts spanned concussion, subdural hematoma, and diffuse axonal injury ranges. It was concluded that severe head injuries commonly diagnosed as shaking injuries require impact to occur and that shaking alone in an otherwise normal baby is unlikely to cause the shaken baby syndrome.