Cervical spine injuries continue to be a costly societal problem. Future advancements in injury prevention depend on improved physical and computational models which, in turn, are predicated on a better understanding of the responses of the neck during dynamic loading. Previous studies have shown that the tolerance of the neck is dependent on its initial position and its buckling behavior. This study uses a computational model to examine the mechanical factors influencing buckling behavior during impact to the neck. It was hypothesized that the inertial properties of the cervical spine influence the dynamics during compressive axial loading. The hypothesis was tested by performing parametric analyses of vertebral mass, mass moments of inertia, motion segment stiffness, and loading rate. Increases in vertebral mass resulted in increasingly complex kinematics and larger peak loads and impulses. Similar results were observed for increases in stiffness. Faster loading rates were associated with higher peak loads and higher-order buckling modes. The results demonstrate that mass has a great deal of influence on the buckling behavior of the neck, particularly with respect to the expression of higher-order modes. Injury types and mechanisms may be substantially altered by loading rate because inertial effects may influence whether the cervical spine fails in a compressive mode, or a bending mode. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.