Total Brain & Spine Institute is committed to providing the best care and treatment for Sports-Related Neck Injuries throughout Tampa, Florida. Dr. Le and his team are standing by the assist you.  Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

The neck is part of a long flexible column, known as the spinal column or backbone, which extends through most of the body. The cervical spine (neck region) consists of seven bones (C1-C7 vertebrae), which are separated from one another by intervertebral discs. These discs allow the spine to move freely and act as shock absorbers during activity. The spinal cord, a very vulnerable structure which connects the brain to the body, is located in the middle of the cervical spine, protected by bony structures.

Sports can contribute to neck injuries of varying degrees of severity, including neck fractures and cervical spinal cord injuries (SCIs). A fractured (broken) neck is a very serious matter, but in many cases, the patient can make a full recovery and regain all neurological function. A neck fracture can sometimes lead to a complete SCI, which will result in some degree of paralysis or even death.

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Sports-related cervical injuries can be categorized in the following terms:

  • Acute cervical sprains/strains including whiplash injury
  • Cervical fractures and dislocations
  • Nerve root or brachial plexus injuries
  • Intervertebral disc injuries
  • Cervical stenosis

Signs and Symptoms of Broken/Fractured Neck

Sports-related cervical injuries can be categorized in the following terms:

  • Pain, which may or may not be severe
  • Pain radiating from the neck down to the shoulders and/or arms
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Decreased feeling in the arms, legs or body
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis of the arms or legs

Fractured or Broken Neck

A neck fracture is a break in one or more of the cervical bones (vertebrae in the neck). A person with a neck injury should not be moved without competent medical care, which should be summoned immediately. It is important to recognize the possibility of a neck fracture. Injuries severe enough to cause head injury or other trauma often also cause neck fracture.

A severe, sudden twist to the neck or a severe blow to the head or neck area can cause a neck fracture. Sports involving violent physical contact carry a greater risk of neck fracture, including football, ice hockey, rugby and wrestling. Spearing an opponent in football or rugby can cause a broken neck. Neck fractures are also related to several non-contact sports such as skiing, swimming, diving, surfing, power weightlifting and horseback riding.

Cervical SCI

The severity of an injury depends on the part of the spinal cord that is affected. The higher the SCI on the vertebral column, or the closer it is to the brain, the more effect it has on body movement and one’s sense of feeling.

Quadriplegia (a.k.a. tetraplegia) results from injuries to the spinal cord in the cervical (neck) region, with associated loss of muscle strength in all four extremities.

Complete SCI

A complete SCI produces total loss of all motor and sensory function below the level of injury. Nearly 50 percent of all SCIs are complete. Both sides of the body are equally affected. Even in the case of complete SCI, the spinal cord is rarely cut or transected. More commonly, loss of function is caused by a contusion or bruise to the spinal cord or by compromise of blood flow to the injured part of the spinal cord.

Incomplete SCI

In an incomplete SCI, some function remains below the primary level of the injury. A person with an incomplete injury may be able to move one arm or leg more than the other or may have more functioning on one side of the body than the other.

“Spinal concussions” can also occur. These can be complete or incomplete, but spinal cord dysfunction is transient, generally resolving within one or two days. Football players are especially susceptible to spinal concussions and spinal cord contusions. The latter may produce neurological symptoms including numbness, tingling, electric shock-like sensations and burning in the extremities. Spinal fracture-dislocation injuries with ligamentous tears cannot be excluded until the opposite is proven.

The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center at the University of Alabama tracks comprehensive information regarding SCI, including in-depth data on sports-related SCI. Many sports are tabulated as stand-alone categories; however, the following is an explanation of categories that include multiple sports. Winter Sports: sledding, snow tubing, tobogganing, ice hockey, snowboarding; Field Sports: field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, rugby. Other Sports includes all other unclassified sports.

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