In many road traffic accidents, the cervical spine (neck region) is injured, says spine surgeon V. Vinod.
When the vertebra is disturbed from its original position, it compresses the spinal cord. This renders the person quadriplegic (complete loss of movement of hands and legs and no sensation below the neck), the surgeon explains. The spinal cord is severed only when a bullet or a knife pierces through it.
“The compression injury can occur under severe, direct impact of a fall or collision. The other is improper handling of the injured while shifting them to a hospital,” he says.
In most cases, the cord injury is secondary. The vertebra takes the first hit as the protective cover. It injures the cord if the head hangs or is turned when the injured is being shifted to hospital.
“In a recent case, a young man was able to move his hands while lying on the road, though he was dazed. But, he lost movement of limbs when some persons put him into a vehicle in order to rush him to hospital,” the surgeon recalls.
The surgeon says the head should align with the body. More than one person has to be involved in putting the injured on a stretcher or roll them onto at least a wooden plank that could serve as a stretcher. “The body and the head should turn together. Even the slightest misaligned movement of the neck can lead to a spinal cord injury. So, it is better if trained persons shifted the injured to hospital,” Dr. Vinod says.
Four-wheeler drivers/passengers suffer cervical spine injury because of whiplash effect: the head lurches forward and is thrown back during a collision.