In the Quarterfinals of the Men’s Snowboard Cross, Austrian rider Markus Schairer took quite a spill on Thursday. He ended up fracturing his fifth cervical vertebrae.
— Lukas Zahrer (@ZaraLuk) February 15, 2018
When the medics rush to him they check the following:
- Altered sensory impairment
- Head or neck pain
- Spinal cord Injury symptoms
- movement in extremities
- any normal sensations in extremities
- any abnormal sensations (burning, numbness, tingling) in extremities
The cervical spine consists of seven vertebrae. Each stacked neatly on top of other to allow you to bend your forward, backward, side to side and turn your you head smoothly. The way the joints are aligned with one another, it allows for the greatest amount of rotation to occur. More than your thoracic spine or lumbar spine.
The first two cervical vertebrae are shaped differently comparatively to the third through seventh vertebrae. They have functions that are heavily influenced by the way they are shaped and designed. For this article, we’re going to look at the one that was fractured.
While reports have not said which type of fracture occurred. But we do know there was no severe spinal cord damage. We do not know the range of motion available in his neck. The potential is high he suffered a flexion injury. There doesn’t seem to be any indication that there was compression injury or a potential rotation injury. While an extension-based injury is a possibility, many of the fractures occur at the upper cervical spine at C1 or C2.
Flexion-based injuries do not include neurological impairment, unless the vertebrae has flexed and anterior dislocated to the above or below vertebrae, which can be more severe in nature. Cervical flexion injuries may end up causing a small avulsion fracture either off the spinous process of the vertebrae or the vertebral body. Both of those types of injuries are not life-threatening.
While there are more life-threatening cervical fractures, this article does not deep dive into it because, Markus’ injury has not been diagnosed as life-threatening.
What Could I Do:
For the time being, he’s going to be in a cervical collar to help with the healing process. When he’s being treated the focus will be on:
- strength (isometric, concentric, eccentric progressions)
- neck range of motion
- reducing and keeping pain levels to a minimum
Testing will occur each visit to make sure there are no neurological symptom development. Also it’s important to make sure that poor posture does not develop because of it.
Manual therapy will be a vital component to rehabbing the patient. Chiropractic manual adjustments will also be a part of the treatment as well.
Good news is he was able to get up and move on his own and snowboard the rest of the course. It’s been reported he was able to avoid permanent damage. He should make a full recovery through chiropractic and physical therapy. While he does have an extensive injury history (left shoulder torn ligaments, ruptured cruciate ligament in his knee, four broken ribs).
He could be able to continue professional snowboarding as long as there are no setbacks or no other discoveries made on his x-rays or MRI. While his Olympics are done, his sporting career certainly is not.