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J Athl Train. 1996 Jan;31(1):31-7.

The Incidence of Spearing During a High School's 1975 and 1990 Football Seasons.

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Jonathan F. Heck is Coordinator of Athletic Training at Richard Stockton College, Pomona, NJ 08240.


Spearing and head-first contact in football pose significant risks of cervical spine injury and concussion. Reduction in the number of catastrophic head and neck injuries in football has been attributed to the 1976 rule change banning spearing. In this study, I examine the incidence of spearing before and after the rule change. I reviewed 18 game films of a New Jersey high school football team (9 from 1975 and 9 from 1990) to determine the incidence of all types of spearing by ball carriers and tacklers. The cumulative incidence was 1/2.5 plays for 1975 and 1/2.4 plays for 1990. Over 14 ball carrier spears and over 26 tackler spears occurred per game for both seasons. Spearing by running backs increased during the 1990 season, but the overall incidence of ball carrier spearing did not change. Tacklers were more likely to spear when a ball carrier speared and the incidence of concurrent tackler spearing increased significantly during the 1990 season. Independent tackler and defensive linemen spearing, however, decreased. Linebackers and defensive backs accounted for the most spears among tacklers. Overall, it does not appear that the rule change had a favorable impact on the incidence of spearing.


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