This summer, 16 year old De’Antre Turman died after fracturing his
third vertebra during a football scrimmage at an Atlanta area high school.
According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, incidents such
as this highlight the need to educate young athletes and their coaches
regarding the risk of sustaining injuries to their cervical spine while
playing contact sports.
Spinal cord injuries are on the rise in the U.S. Most injuries occur in
According to estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, approximately 20,000
spinal cord injuries occur in the U.S. every year. Most new spinal cord injuries occur in individuals
between the ages of 15 and 35 years old. Nearly 12 percent of these spinal
cord injuries are sports related. According to a survey conducted by the
National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, the number of cervical spine injuries that lead to
neurological damage is on the rise.
Spinal cord injuries can become fatal when they are not recognized in time.
The cervical spine protects the spinal cord, which connects the brain to
the body. It is a highly vulnerable area located between the first and
seventh vertebrae. Cervical spine injuries commonly occur when individuals
collide with another player or objects such as, goal posts, while their
head is lowered or their chin is tucked into their chest. One factor that
makes cervical spine injuries particularly fatal is that most players
and their coaches are unable to recognize the severity of the damage in
time. Players can often recover from fractures to their vertebrae. However,
cervical spine injuries have the potential to become fatal because one
wrong move can sever the spinal cord. In fact, one of the highest risks
to someone who has sustained a spinal injury occurs when they are being moved.
Advocacy organizations are pushing for schools to hire certified athletic
trainers who have the expertise to recognize and respond to spinal cord injuries.
The National Athletic Trainers’ Association reports that of the U.S.
secondary schools which have athletic programs, only two-thirds of them
have access to an athletic trainer who is licensed by the state and works
under the direction of a physician. A number of organizations are working
to encourage schools to hire certified athletic trainers. These individuals
have the training and expertise necessary to recognize and respond to
a cervical spine injury in a timely manner.
In 2009, the Association issued recommendations regarding the management
of cervical spine injuries. The recommendation included taking special
care when removing helmets, face masks, and shoulder pads. The recommendations
also laid out immobilization techniques that could be used on the field.
If you child or other loved one has been injured or killed in a school
sporting event, you should contact an attorney immediately. An attorney
will be able to review the facts of your case and determine whether another
party is liable for your loss. If so, the attorney can help you receive
the compensation you deserve.