Cervical Disc Injuries Clinical Presentation

Updated: Apr 03, 2022
  • Author: Robert E Windsor, MD, FAAPMR, FAAEM, FAAPM; Chief Editor: Sherwin SW Ho, MD  more...
  • Print


Athletes with symptomatic cervical disc injuries commonly present with segmental neck pain, muscle spasm, loss of ROM, and referred pain in both radicular and nonradicular distribution. Nerve root involvement leads to radicular upper extremity pain, weakness, and sensory changes. Pain symptoms may be exacerbated with motion, lifting, and Valsalva maneuvers.


Physical Examination

Information obtained from the physical examination is often of limited benefit. Examination generally demonstrates reduced segmental motion at involved levels.

Pain with mobilization may or may not be present. ROM may or may not be present, depending on the chronicity of the condition and its severity.

Neurologic examination is generally within the reference range. (See Cervical Radiculopathy.)

Cervical cord neuropraxia (CCN) is a transient neurologic syndrome occurring in athletes with cervical spine injury. CCN is especially common in cervical spine injuries resulting from contact sports. The presentation can range from bilateral paresthesias in the arms to complete quadriplegia. Typical episodes can last from 15 minutes to 48 hours with complete recovery. The mechanism is thought to be due to brief compression of the spinal cord resulting in transient interruption of the spinal pathways. The incidence of cervical spinal stenosis is as high as 86% in athletes who have experienced this condition. [6]