Football Helmet & Pads: On or Off in Spinal Cord Injury?

Many of you have seen the photos of Keven Everett’s attendants after his on-field injury. I did not see live footage of the game and I’m not sure what was televised. But I can tell you that from the images i’ve seen, appropriate management techniques for football specific spinal injuries were followed.

Check out the following photos:

Note how the trainer is supporting his head in a neutral alignment. This alignment must be maintained until either injury is excluded or the player’s neck is stabilized in a longer term device such as a Miami J collar, a Philadelphia collar, a “Halo” device with pins screwed directly into the skull, or even cervical spine traction where pins are placed into the skull, and weights are used to hold the head inline by hanging them behind the player’s head while he lays supine on his hospital bed. None of the above sound fun, but they are all vital.

So what should be done with the helmet and pads?

In the onfield setting the followign advice is recommended by The Inter-Association Task Force for Appropriate Care of the Spine Injured Athlete.
1) Do not remove helmet or pads
2) Log roll a prone athlete (on his stomach) to a supine position (on his back) to provide access to the airway
3) Rapidly remove the face mask with cutting shears that should be in every football sideline kit. Even if the athlete is breathing, if he or she should have a sudden decline, access is already present.
4) Secure the athlete to a back board with all protective equipment in place.

So it looks like the next step in the photo above is to remove the face mask. I’m not sure if this was done or not. Apparently Kevin was breathing and awake during the initial evaluation, but the reported injury was at C4 & C5 I think. The diaphragm, which controls breathing is supplied by the C3, C4 & C5 nerves. (“C three, four and five keep the diaphragm alive”) Therefore breathing diffuculties with this injury would not be unexpected.

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