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Slip and Falls: What Are the Long Term Effects of a Broken Neck?

Written by Ankin Law Office

A fall that causes trauma to the neck and spine can result in permanent nerve damage which can not be surgically repaired. A broken neck and severe spinal cord injuries may result in paralysis.

The Impact of Cervical Injuries

Neck trauma often results in fractures and broken bones that may cause life-altering injuries, including loss of mobility and paralysis. Minor neck injuries that do not involve the spinal cord are often treated with medical neck braces, physical therapy, bed rest, and surgical procedures to reset broken bones. However, severe neck trauma that involves fractured or broken cervical bones and nerve damage to the spinal cord may cause permanent injuries that can’t be medically treated or repaired.

A neck fracture, also referred to as a cervical fracture, involves a break in one or more of the seven cervical bones that make up the spinal vertebrae. The cervical vertebrae in the neck, labeled C1 through C7, supports the neck and spinal cord and allows movement of the head, neck, shoulders, and spine. When a break damages the spinal vertebrae, medical options are limited and recovery may not be possible. Currently, there is no medical treatment or surgical procedure that can repair the spinal cord, and the spinal cord is not able to heal itself.

Common Causes of Neck Trauma

Severe neck trauma such as fractures and breaks to the cervical vertebrae are caused by a hard impact to the head and neck area. Common causes of severe injury include:

  • Falls from heights such as rooftops and ladders
  • Vehicle and motorcycle collisions
  • Swimming and diving in shallow water
  • High contact sports-related accidents
  • Osteoporosis and arthritis conditions
  • Physical violence

Any severe blow to the head or neck area or sudden, hard twist of the neck can cause a cervical fracture or broken bone. People with certain illnesses or diseases that cause loss of bone mass or muscle mass are at greater risks for neck fractures or broken necks. Elderly adults are especially vulnerable to severe neck trauma caused by falls, the leading cause of fatal injuries to people over age 65. Chicago slip and fall lawyers commonly see severe fall injuries that result in neck trauma, as well as broken hands, legs, and hips in elderly adults. Neck trauma seen in younger people is more commonly caused by vehicle and motorcycle crashes and sports-related injuries that result in a strong blow to the head. High contact sports such as tackle football, soccer, and ice hockey, as well as high-risk recreational activities like parachuting, hang-gliding, snow skiing, and diving create greater chances for severe neck trauma and permanent neck injuries.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Neck trauma should be taken seriously and considered a medical emergency. A fracture or break in the cervical vertebrae can lead to permanent injuries, paralysis, and death. Chicago slip and fall lawyers see many cases that require long-term rehabilitation.

A person who suffers a neck injury may show various symptoms that often include the following:

  • Severe pain
  • Swelling and/or tenderness
  • Bruising or redness
  • Inability to move the head
  • Lack of feeling in arms and/or legs
  • Muscle weakness or paralysis in arms and/or legs

Anyone who complains of such symptoms after a fall, car accident, or other incidents should be taken to the hospital for immediate medical diagnosis and care. The injury victim should only be moved by medical professionals who understand the risks associated with neck trauma.

Proper diagnosis of a neck fracture or broken neck requires a medical examination by a licensed physician or specialist who will need to know the victims symptoms and cause of the injury. A neurological exam and a series of imaging tests are required to detect the severity of damage. X-rays will be ordered to look for breaks in the bones or a dislocation of the vertebrae. A CT scan will analyze bone fractures or breaks and compression in the spinal cord. An MRI will provide cross-sectional images that show any spinal cord damage.

Once properly diagnosed, medical care and treatment will depend on the severity of the neck trauma. Treatment depends on the severity of the fracture or broken bone; where the fracture or break occurs; which cervical vertebrae are involved; and whether there is nerve damage to the spinal cord. Minor injuries are often treated with a neck brace or collar worn for about 8 weeks, or a traction type neck brace worn for about 12 weeks to stabilize the neck and restrict head movement. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to reconnect bones, remove damaged vertebrae discs, and relieve pressure on the spinal cord.

Victims of slip and fall accidents and car collisions often suffer severe neck and head trauma that requires hospitalization in intensive care. If nerve damage occurs to the spinal cord, injuries may result in paralysis and/or long-term rehabilitation and medical care.

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