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 Cervical Spine Injuries:
- Athlete who Remains Down or Motionless After a Play
- Abnormal Neurological Status/Findings
- Altered Consciousness
- Loss of Motion in Extremities
- Cervical Spine Pain with/without Palpation
- Cervical Spine Deformity
Any athlete suspected of suffering a cervical spine injury should:
- CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY!
- Manual cervical spine stabilization and apply cervical collar.
- Remove protective equipment that hinders access the airway.
- Assess the athlete’s airway, breathing, and circulation.
- Maintain/monitor vitals until trained personnel arrive on site.
- Move athlete onto the spine board.
- Secure athlete’s head with blocks to spine board.
- Transport athlete.