Cervical Spine Injury and Restraint System Use in Motor Vehicle Collisions

Academic Article


  • Context. Cervical spine injury related to motor vehicle collision (MVC) is a severe and often permanently disabling injury. Although advances in automobile crash-worthiness have reduced both fatalities and some severe injuries, the impact of varying occupant restraint systems (seatbelts and airbags) on cervical spine injury is unknown. Objective. To investigate the relationship between the occurrence of cervical spine injury and occupant restraint systems among front seat occupants involved in frontal MVCs. Design, Setting, and Patients. A case-control study among subjects obtained from the 1995 to 2001 National Automotive Sampling System (NASS). Cases were identified based on having sustained a cervical spine injury score of 2 or more on the Abbreviated Injury Scale, 1990 Revision. Results. Approximately half (44.7%) of 8,412 cases of cervical spine injury were unrestrained occupants while belted only, airbag only, and both restraint systems represented 38.2%, 8.8%, and 8.4% of cases, respectively. Overall, the combined use of airbag and seatbelt had the greatest protective effect, relative to unrestrained occupants, with an odds ratio (OR) of 0.19 and a 95% confidence interval (Cl) of 0.12 to 0.30. Use of a seatbelt only also had a protective effect (OR: 0.40; 95% CI: 0.23-0.70). Occupant use of an airbag only neither increased nor decreased the risk of cervical spine injuries relative to unrestrained occupants (OR: 1.02; 95% CI: 0.57-2.13). Conclusions. The results of this study suggest that there is an increase in overall protection against cervical spine injury by combining airbag and seatbelt restraint systems relative to seatbelt alone.
  • Published In

  • Spine  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Claytor B; MacLennan PA; McGwin G; Rue LW; Kirkpatrick JS
  • Start Page

  • 386
  • End Page

  • 389
  • Volume

  • 29
  • Issue

  • 4