Spinal Injuries in Sports

Back and neck injuries are possible in any sport – from football all the way to golf. In fact, 1/5th of all sports injuries occur in the lower back or neck. It’s important to understand how and why these injuries occur in order for us to do everything that we can to prevent them. 

The lower back is the most frequently injured part of the spine in sports. This is because the lower back ends up absorbing the brunt of the force from any sort of repetitive impact such as swinging something or jogging. Neck injuries, on the other hand, almost always occur due to violent impacts that frequently occur in sports such as hockey, football and Nascar. In sports, upper back injuries are the most rare of these three injuries but they usually involve intercostal neuralgia or rib fractures. Any motion involving the rotation of the torso could lead to this type of injury such as training your obliques at the gym. 

The vast majority of these injuries will heal with the right treatment, care and time, like a sciatica for example. However, in some rare cases these injuries are permanent and sometimes even fatal. In the fifty years from 1945 to 2005 there were 80 deaths due to spinal cord injury – and that’s just from American football alone (all levels). 

In 2010, Eric LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down playing football after he fractured his C3 and C4 cervical vertebrae in 2010. He now has movement in his shoulders as well as feeling throughout his body after half a decade of painstaking rehabilitation. 

Devon Gales was paralyzed from the waist down and bound to a wheelchair in 2015. Gales was playing football for Southern University when, on a kick return, he shattered his C6 vertebra and had the C4 and C5 vertebra simultaneously pinching at his spinal cord. This past May, he posted video of himself walking with assistance for the first time since the accident online. 

Prevention always starts with preparation. Whenever you participate in any sort of sport or exercise you should warm up. Warming up can be defined as any sort of light physical activity that will engage the same muscles you are about to use in your workout or sport activity. You should also always use extreme caution when playing sports and/or exercising. 

If you have any back issues you should consult with your doctor right away. He or she will recommend a treatment or refer you to either a chiropractor or spinal surgeon. 

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