Cervical Spine Injuries in Children Associated With Sports and Recreational Activities

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Abstract

Objective

The aim of this study was to ascertain potential factors associated with cervical spine injuries in children injured during sports and recreational activities.

Methods

This is a secondary analysis of a multicenter retrospective case-control study involving children younger than 16 years who presented to emergency departments after blunt trauma and underwent cervical spine radiography. Cases had cervical spine injury from sports or recreational activities (n = 179). Comparison groups sustained (1) cervical spine injury from other mechanisms (n = 361) or (2) other injuries from sports and recreational activities but were free of cervical spine injury (n = 180).

Results

For children with sport and recreational activity–related cervical spine injuries, common injury patterns were subaxial (49%) and fractures (56%). These children were at increased odds of spinal cord injury without radiographic abnormalities compared with children with cervical spine injuries from other mechanisms (25% vs 6%). Children with sport and recreational activity–related trauma had increased odds of cervical spine injury if they had focal neurologic findings (odds ratio [OR], 5.7; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.5–9.4), had complaints of neck pain (OR, 3.1; 95% CI, 1.9–5.0), were injured diving (OR, 43.5; 95% CI, 5.9–321.3), or sustained axial loading impacts (OR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.3–3.5). Football (22%), diving (20%), and bicycle crashes (11%) were the leading activities associated with cervical spine injury.

Conclusions

In children injured during sports and recreational activities, focal neurologic findings, neck pain, axial loading impacts, and the possibility of spinal cord injury without radiographic abnormality should guide the diagnostic evaluation for potential cervical spine injuries. Certain activities have a considerable frequency of cervical spine injury, which may benefit from activity-specific preventive measures.

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