In contrast to sagittal plane spine biomechanics, little is known about the response of the cervical spine to axial compression with lateral eccentricity of the applied force. This study evaluated the effect of lateral eccentricity on kinetics, kinematics, canal occlusion, injuries and flexibility of the cervical spine in translationally-constrained axial impacts.

Eighteen functional spinal units were subjected to flexibility tests before and after an impact. Impact axial compression was applied at one of three lateral eccentricity levels based on percentage of vertebral body width (low = 5%, medium = 50%, high = 150%). Injuries were graded by dissection. Correlations between intrinsic specimen properties and injury scores were examined for each eccentricity group.

Low lateral force eccentricity produced predominantly bone injuries, clinically recognised as compression injuries, while medium and high eccentricity produced mostly contralateral ligament and/or disc injuries, an asymmetric pattern typical of lateral loading. Mean compression force at injury decreased with increasing lateral eccentricity (low = 3098 N, medium = 2337 N and high = 683 N). Mean ipsilateral bending moments at injury were higher at medium (28.3 Nm) and high (22.9 Nm) eccentricity compared to low eccentricity specimens (0.1 Nm), p<0.05. Ipsilateral bony injury was related to vertebral body area (r = -0.974, p = 0.001) and disc degeneration (r = 0.851, p = 0.032) at medium eccentricity. Facet degeneration was correlated with central bony injury at high eccentricity (r = 0.834, p = 0.036). These results deepen cervical spine biomechanics knowledge in circumstances with coronal plane loads.

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