Tag Archives: spinal injury

Spinal Cord Injuries in Young People (Article)

Spinal cord injuries often involve young people but  few teens and college students understand the potentially life threatening risks that come with playing many popular sports. Unfortunately, with their youth often comes a feeling of invulnerability, and the belief that they are impervious to injury. It’s all part of being young, but all it only takes is one fall, or one bad tackle to turn a cheerleading stunt or football game into a literal nightmare. Spinal cord injury awareness is often overlooked during training, possibly because concussions and other more common injuries take the forefront. Recently, the Center for Disease Control has provided some specifics with regards  to spinal injuries. According to their statistics, as many as 20,000 spinal cord injuries occur every year, with 12% resulting from sports, and most new cases involve 15-35 year olds. In 2008, 14 injuries resulting in some degree of paralysis were reported, and over the past ten years, the double-digit trend has continued to escalate. Though the numbers may seem small in comparison to other sports injuries, these life-changing and life-threatening injuries could happen at any time to anyone.

The cervical spine is a crucial, highly vulnerable area that safeguards the spinal cord connecting the body to the brain. Spinal cord injuries often occur when athletes tuck or bend their heads towards their chests during a fall. When the head makes contact with the ground or other obstacle, the sensitive cervical vertebrae are jarred, resulting in most commonly in sprains, or stingers (a temporary injury where the head or neck is jerked to one side with the shoulder going in the opposite direction), from which most young people recover. Other spinal cord injuries are much more serious and permanent.  A ruptured disk is a long-term and very painful injury, while a fractured vertebra, more commonly known as a broken neck, is life threatening. If the spinal cord is severed, paralysis or even death may result.

In light of the increased numbers of spinal cord injuries, many schools are trying to institute more safety regulations and are training more highly certified athletic trainers in proper safety techniques to prevent cervical spinal injuries. Coaches are teaching their football players to tackle with the head up, instead of tucked,. A program to prevent “spearing”-headfirst contact in football- has been around since 1976, but it hasn’t been enforced consistently. Most colleges and two-thirds of secondary schools have hired highly trained, qualified athletic trainers who are specially trained to quickly recognize and detect spinal cord injuries.  Some schools even run emergency-response drills on the field with players, first-responders, and athletic trainers in case of a spinal cord injury to learn proper techniques in removing helmets, face gear, and shoulder pads, and immobilizing techniques to prevent further injuries. A few high schools are also allowing parents to sit in on coach and athletic trainer training sessions to increase awareness on spinal cord injuries. If your teen’s school offers these programs, try to attend a session so you can have a one-on-one talk with your teen about the dangers and all of the available safety techniques. If your teen’s school has yet to implement these programs, let administrators know that spinal cord injuries are real and that prevention programs are important. Increasing awareness is the key to beginning the important task of prevention of spinal injuries

Your comments are welcome at my blog, www.docsmo.com.  Feel free to share your thoughts and stories there.  Until next time.

Smo Notes:


1. Wall Street Journal, written by Laura Landro, September 16, 2013 edition.


Written collaboratively by Keri Register and Paul Smolen M.D.

Trampoline Truths (Pedcast)

Welcome to another edition of DocSmo.com, where we discuss child health topics ranging from the crib to the country club, from diapers to the diploma, from the bassinette to the boardroom.  Well, you get the idea.   I am your host, Dr. Paul Smolen.  Hopefully, in today’s podcast, I can give you some useful information and get you to smile at the same time.  Today we are going to discuss the AAP’s recently published  statement about the dangers of trampolines … as any of my patients will tell you, this is one of my hot buttons.  I will be right up front: I don’t like trampolines as a toy for children because I see so many injuries on them….broken arms and legs, sprained ankles and necks, and even permanent neurologic injuries. Here is a DocSmo pearl for you- “ “There is no toy that is so much fun that it is worth the risk of your child sustaining a lifelong injury… none”  I think after you learn a few facts about trampolines in today’s podcast, you will see what I am talking about.

Here is a summary of what health experts say about trampolines from the AAP:

Jumping on a trampoline is dangerous, plain and simple.  Approximately 83,000 children a year in the US are injured jumping on trampolines.  You heard me, 83,000. When children jump, especially when multiple children play on the same trampoline, they are at risk of injuring their entire body.  Lower extremity injuries, mostly involving the ankle, account for about 50% of trampoline injuries.  Upper extremity injuries (most commonly bone fractures) account for about 35% of trampoline injuries, and usually occur when a child falls entirely off of the trampoline.  Head and/or neck injuries, the most frightening of them all, account for the final 15% of trampoline injuries, with 0.5% of trampoline injuries resulting in permanent neurologic damage.  (Although 0.5% may seem like a minuscule percentage, if your child is unlucky enough to be a part of that 0.5%, your family will be left 100% affected)

The three biggest causes of trampoline-related injuries are multiple children jumping at once, falling off of the trampoline, and collision with the trampoline frame and/or springs.  Because children younger than 6 years old typically have less developed motor skills and weigh less than the older children jumping with them, they are at greater risk of dislocating and/or breaking their bones.  Somersaulting and flipping increases the risk of head, neck, and spine injury, which can result in devastating and permanent consequences.

So here is DocSmo’s advice to parents about trampolines.  If you don’t have one, don’t get it.

If you do have a trampoline as I am sure many of your do, here are some important things you can do to minimize problems:

 Trampoline rules:

  1. The trampoline should be placed on a level surface (as close to the ground as possible) and in a hazard-free area
  2. Padding on the trampoline should cover both the frame and the springs and should be frequently inspected to make sure it is in good condition
  3. Children must be 6 years or older to use the trampoline
  4. Only one child is allowed on the trampoline at a time—not only is this the safest option, but it also provides your children with an opportunity to practice the art of sharing and turn-taking
  5. Somersaults and flips are not permitted under any circumstances
  6. 6.     Active supervision by adults willing and able to enforce the rules should occur at all times.    Remember, (Doc Smo pearl) “Adult Supervision” requires that adults actually supervise!!!!

Well, I hope that was helpful. Portable, practical, pediatrics is our goal with every post.  If you have a story about trampolines that you want to tell, or any comments you think our listeners would like to hear, take a moment to send a comment into my website, www.docsmo.com.  or post a comment on  iTunes.  Your feedback is invaluable.

This is Dr. Paul Smolen, broadcasting from studio 1E in Charlotte, hoping your child’s backyard leaping doesn’t end in everyone weeping.  Until next time!

DocSmo.com now has interns helping with research and writing and I want to recognize Abbie Doelger for her contribution to this podcast today. She is a premed senior graduating from Davidson College. Thank you Abbie. Good job.