Cervical Spine Injury
A cervical spine injury can range from serious to catastrophic and can be a cause of sudden death in athletes competing in both contact and non-contact sports. Although, the incidence rate is low (8%) this type of injury has a very high fatality rate. Football is associated with the highest spine injury among sports however, rule changes have dramatically improved the incidence of these injuries. Cervical spine injuries are the result of deformation to the cervical spinal column that can cause spinal cord damage. 24-72 hours after a spinal cord injury has happened many complications arise which is why immediate recognition and treatment is critical to overall survival of the athlete. It is important to instruct proper tackling techniques, enforce rules for safety, and properly fit and maintain protective equipment that meets safety standards to help prevent cervical spine injuries in ALL sports.
Signs and Symptoms of a Cervical Spine Injury:
- Mechanism of injury
- Athlete who remains down or motionless after play
- Abnormal neurological status/findings
- Altered consciousness
- Loss of motion in extremities
- Cervical spine pain with or without palpation
- Cervical spine deformity
Any athlete suspected of suffering a cervical spine injury should:
Be prepared for emergency transport immediately!
The following steps are to be performed:
1. Activate EMS.
2. Apply manual cervical spine stabilization and realign cervical spine to neutral if possible.
3. Apply cervical collar.
4. Remove protective equipment that hiders access the airway.
5. Move athlete onto spine board.
6. Secure athlete’s head with blocks to spine board.
7. Monitor athlete's vitals/level of consciousness throughout entire process.
For up-to-date information on cervical spine injuries, visit ksi.uconn.edu