On-Field Assessment and Management of Spine Injuries
The incidence of spine injuries in athletics remains low, but when they occur, they are associated with significant morbidity and long-term disability. Prevention is key as sport-specific education, innovation in protective equipment, and rule modifications can protect athletes while preserving the integrity of the sport. Still, medical personnel should have an outlined plan well before the injury occurs to effectively make an appropriate response, including an emergency action plan that will accelerate care during this critical time. Communication is vital to the success of the plan, and a team approach will be needed. Team leaders should take charge and direct other medical personnel to ensure safety in delivery of care to the athlete. Prioritizing spinal stabilization during on-field assessment should be standard, and careful consideration must be given to maintaining spinal stability during maneuvers necessary for resuscitation. A rehearsed and regimented exam allows for an efficient and comprehensive on-field evaluation. If necessary, safe transfer of the athlete requires coordination of care and proper communication among all team members to make sure the athlete is properly boarded and secured prior to transport. While each injury is unique and circumstances surrounding the injury change, a well-organized systematic response will help ensure safe and efficient care for the athlete and will mitigate risk of further injury.
KeywordsOn-field Initial assessment Spine board Team physician Spinal cord injury Resuscitation
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