Spinal cord injury in children follows different patterns based on age. The most common cause of injury for all children is motor vehicle accidents. Next, come falls for children aged 2 to 9. Sports, especially football injuries, are the most common cause of spinal cord injuries in children aged 9 to 14.
Many children who have a spinal cord injury also have a traumatic brain injury. Any time a child is unconscious after an accident, a spinal cord injury should be suspected. This means it’s very important to call 911 immediately and not move the child. The spine and neck need to be stabilized by the paramedics to prevent further damaging the spinal cord.
Recovery after Spinal Cord Injury
One challenge with spinal cord injury treatment in children, is that damage doesn’t always show up on a radiologic exam. The issue is called SCIWORA which stands for Spinal Cord Injury Without Radiologic Abnormality. This means that a comprehensive neurologic exam, preferably by an expert neurologist who has experience working with children, is necessary to identify the neurologic damage, since it might not show up on radiologic tests such as an x-ray.
According to a comprehensive review of spinal cord injury in children, which was published by the Journal of Neurotrauma, children are also at high risk of developing scoliosis after spinal cord injury. One study reported that up to 97% of children who have spinal cord trauma before their growth spurt will develop this complication. Well planned care and rehabilitation is necessary to minimize the life-time effects of spinal cord injury in this population.
Children have unique spinal cord injury rehabilitation needs, and after an injury comprehensive planning for a variety of life-long complications is necessary. Dr. Greg Vigna is both a rehabilitation physician and a lawyer, and is certified in lifecare planning. As a father he understands the importance of making sure your child’s needs will be taken care of for the rest of their lives.