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What to do if you suspect someone has a spinal cord injury?

Car crashes are a common cause for severe injuries. If you are involved in a car crash, the first thing you should do is to check if you or anyone else involved in the crash is injured. If someone is injured you should call 911 immediately and request an ambulance.

A spinal cord injury is one of the most severe types of injury that can be caused by a car crash. Because spinal cord injuries can become worse when not recognized right away, it is especially important to understand the signs of this injury.

Signs of a spinal cord injury

You may have reason to suspect a spinal cord injury if someone:

  • Has a head injury and experiences a change in consciousness
  • Complains about severe neck or back pain
  • Was hit hard on the head or back
  • Lacks control of his or her limbs, bladder or bowels
  • Complains of weakness, numbness or paralysis
  • Is positioned oddly, especially if the odd position is to the neck or back

However, spinal cord injuries are not always immediately obvious. Sometimes symptoms may appear gradually as bleeding and swelling occur. Because of this, it is often safest to assume anyone who experiences trauma to the head or neck could have a spinal cord injury.

What to do if someone has signs of a spinal cord injury?

If you think someone may have a spinal cord injury, do not move him or her. Ask the person to try to remain still and call 911 immediately.

You may consider placing heavy towels or other rolled fabric on both sides of the neck to hold the head and prevent movement. If the person is wearing a motorcycle helmet or other type of helmet, do not try to remove it.

You may provide basic first aid if it can be done without moving the person. If the person must be moved because he or she is vomiting or choking on blood, you must find another person to help roll the person to his or her side.

One person must hold the head while the other holds the person's side. Together, you must carefully roll the person while keeping the head, neck and back aligned. However, this should only be done if absolutely necessary.

Dealing with the aftermath

Anyone who experiences trauma to the head, neck or back should be examined as soon as possible by a medical professional, even if symptoms are not immediately apparent. If a loved one received a spinal cord injury or another serious injury in a car crash, litigation may be an appropriate choice.

This may help your loved one receive compensation for his or her medical expenses and other costs associated with the injury. No one should have to suffer because the actions of a negligent driver.

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