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Angle of the impact can decide severity of spinal cord injury

When it comes to spinal cord injuries, a lot of people may mistakenly believe that the impact to the body must be hard in order for there to be significant damage. But as a young athlete's recent death goes to show, it just takes being hit at the right angle to determine the severity of a spinal cord injury.

In the case of this high school football player, he took a hit during a scrimmage. The teen's third vertebra was fractured and he ended up passing away.

After news broke of this story, many no doubt wondered just how common these types of injuries are. 

Dr. Brandon Mines, with Emory Sports Medicine Center, said while these types of injuries in football are extremely rare, what happened highlights how a spinal cord injury can operate. 

The spinal cord is an important component to a person's body. When an injury occurs, it can be life-threatening. Upper spinal cord injuries, like those experienced by this young football player, are particularly dangerous as it can lead to no motor function and the inability to breathe. 

While not common, all it takes is for the impact to be coming from the right angle. Mines said the angle is just a few degrees off from where a normal hit would be. 

Of course in this case the focus is on spinal cord injuries in youth football. However, Illinois readers should keep in mind that spinal cord injuries can be caused by all types of accidents, including truck and car crashes.

Regardless of what causes the injury, the fact is that spinal cord injuries -- even in cases where the person survives -- can often be life-changing for the person injured and their family. 

Source: CBS Atlanta, "How spinal cord injuries happen, precautions to take," Jennifer Mayerle, Aug. 19, 2013

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