Preventing Spinal Cord Injuries: What to Know

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If you’re not taking safety precautions during mountain sports, you could be at risk for a spinal cord injury. Dr. Scott Schubert of Renown Rehabilitation Hospital explains the best way to prevent this serious injury.

Mountain sports are a big part of the winter season here in our area, but if you’re not practicing all the proper safety techniques, you could end up with a serious spinal cord injury. Scott Schubert, MD, Renown Rehabilitation Hospital, is here to offer tips to prevent this serious injury while you’re out enjoying what the Truckee Meadows has to offer.

What is the spinal cord?

The spine stretches from the base of your skull to the coccyx (commonly referred to as the tailbone). Your spine is made up of 24 vertebrae — seven cervical, which are in your neck, 12 thoracic, which are in your chest, and five lumbar, which are in your lower back. There are ligaments and muscles attached to each vertebra. These facilitate back movement and protect the bones from damage. There is cartilage between each vertebra which acts as a shock absorber for your spine. Finally, the spinal cord is a long, thin, tubular bundle of nervous tissue and support cells that is enclosed in the spine and connects nearly all parts of the body to the brain. The brain and spinal cord together make up the central nervous system.

 

Renown Rehabilitation Hospital Services

Our patient-centered team approach provides unparalleled experience and commitment for those needing acute, short-term rehabilitation to return back to an active lifestyle. Thanks to our team of specialists, our patient outcomes exceed national benchmarks. This means our patients have shorter hospital stays and leave with a higher level of functionality and independence.

We provide a full range of rehabilitation services to help patients recover from:

  • Brain injuries
  • Trauma
  • Stroke
  • Orthopedic injuries
  • Amputation
  • Neurological disorders

For more information, call 775-982-3500 or visit us online.

What are some causes of spinal cord injury?

Main causes of injury while participating in snow sports include run-ins with trees, accidents after going off jumps and being hit by another person.

There are two main ways the spine can get injured:

  • Flexion/hyper-extension: If a sudden impact forces the neck forward and backward very sharply, too much strain is put on the front and/or back of the vertebrae, causing damage (such as a whiplash injury).
  • Compression: if direct compression forces the spine downwards, the bones are pushed on top of each other.

What are the best ways to prevent this injury?

Most spinal cord injuries occur due to accidents. By increasing awareness and taking precautions, many of these accidents and the resulting spinal cord injuries can be prevented.

Be aware: Always look around you and don’t stop in any areas where it’s hard to be seen, such as near trees. Other people can also be a danger to your personal safety so it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. Always stay in control and don’t go faster than conditions permit.

Wear the right gear. It’s not only important to wear the proper safety gear, especially a helmet, but it’s key to make sure you are wearing the equipment properly and it’s the right fit. Research has shown the use of helmets has reduced skiing/snowboarding head injuries by 30 percent to 50 percent. And remember to replace worn or damaged protective equipment.

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