To determine the anatomic basis for spinal instabilities, 16 porcine cervical spine specimens were subjected to a well-defined sagittal plane trauma. The multidirectional instability of each specimen was measured before and after trauma. Detailed anatomic dissections were performed on each traumatized specimen to quantitate the extent of injury to several distinct anatomic structures and columns. Multiple regression models were constructed to determine which anatomic structures and columns correlated best with each multidirectional instability. Flexion instability correlated best with injury to the interspinous/supraspinous ligaments and the ligamentum flavum. Extension instability correlated best with anterior longitudinal ligament and pedicle injury. Axial rotation instability correlated best with anterior disc–end-plate and capsular ligament injuries, while lateral bending instability correlated best with posterior disc–end-plate injuries. Anterior column injuries correlated best with extension, axial rotation, and lateral bending instabilities, while posterior column injuries correlated best with flexion instability. Finally, individual anatomic structural injuries had higher correlations with multidirectional instabilities than did the injuries defined by the anatomic columns.