A cervical fracture involves a break in one of the cervical vertebrae. It is usually caused by trauma especially during vehicular collisions or falls. Athletes are also at high risk for this fracture particularly if engaged in contact sports such as football, soccer and hockey.
Any injury to the vertebra can result to dire consequences since the spinal cord serves as the connection of the central nervous system to the brain and body runs through its center. Any injury to the spinal cord can lead to paralysis or even death. If an injury is incurred at the cervical level, it can lead to either temporary or permanent paralysis of the whole body starting from the neck down.
Emergency response to a cervical fracture
In any traumatic event, the initial first aid measure is to immobilize the neck until an X-ray is taken and checked by the doctor. The emergency medical team will assume that an unconscious individual suffered from a neck injury and will respond accordingly.
For conscious individuals with an acute neck injury, they might have severe neck pain or none. In some cases, there is pain that spreads from the neck to the arms or shoulders. There is even bruising and swelling at the back of the neck. A complete neurological examination is performed to assess the nerve function and your doctor can request radiographic studies such as CT scan or MRI to determine the extent of the damage.
Treatment for cervical fracture
The treatment typically depends on the damaged cervical vertebrae and the type of fracture sustained. For a minor compression fracture, it can be easily treated by wearing a cervical brace that is used 6-8 weeks until the bone heals. For extensive fractures, it would require traction, surgery and 2-3 months of wearing a rigid cast. In some cases, the treatment can involve a combination of these.
How to prevent a cervical fracture
Due to the improvements and advancements on the athletic equipment used in different sports and the changes in the rules, it has drastically reduced the number of sports-related cervical fractures throughout the years. There are various ways that can help prevent the injury.
- It is important to wear seatbelts at all times when you are driving or the passenger.
- Always use the appropriate protective gear and equipment for the sports you are engaged in and make sure that you will follow all the safety rules and regulations.
- Avoid diving in a shallow pool area and make sure that young individuals are properly supervised with swimming and diving.
If you suspect that an individual has sustained a whether a minor or a severe cervical fracture, the initial step is to immobilize the neck and call for emergency assistance right away so that the appropriate medical care can be provided to minimize the damage.