Considerations for Spinal Cord Injury in the Athlete

  • Joseph E. Molenda
  • Brian T. DavidEmail author
  • Richard G. Fessler


Although rare, catastrophic cervical spine injuries resulting in acute spinal cord injury (SCI) do occur as a result of athletic events. An acute SCI can be thought of as an initial traumatic primary injury with a secondary injury that follows as a result of the progressive cascade of events that results in tissue destruction and systemic autonomic consequences. The primary injury results from a mechanical insult. The result is disruption of neuronal axons, blood vessels, and cell membranes. This triggers a cascade of processes that define the secondary injury phase. During the secondary injury phase, necrosis results from mechanical disruption of cellular membranes, with simultaneous upregulation of cytokines and release of glutamate; together these processes can lead to further cell death. The early stages of the secondary injury are thought to be critical areas where medical intervention can benefit the patient. The interventions most commonly used today include surgery, maintaining high perfusion pressures, intravenous steroids, and induced hypothermia. Other medical modalities have been investigated with mixed results at this time.


Spinal cord injury Athlete Steroids Cord perfusion 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph E. Molenda
    • 1
  • Brian T. David
    • 1
    Email author
  • Richard G. Fessler
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeurosurgeryRush University Medical CenterChicagoUSA

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