By Matt Lalande in Pedeatric Injuries on April 10, 2020
Neck injuries, also known as C-spine injuries are relatively rare in the pediatric population, but when they occur they can lead to permanent consequences that can be emotionally and economically frightning for both parents – and the child as he or she ages. Orthopedic and Spinal Cord Injury journals tell us that neck injuries in kids under the age of 8 normally above the C4 vertebrae and are commonly caused by car accidents, kids getting hit by cars, bicycle accidents, falls, and child abuse. In kids under the age of 8, damage to C5 to C8 are more common and also occur mostly because of car accidents, but are also commonly seen in sports injuries (mostly gymnsatics and cheer) diving, horseback riding and football.
Remember, kids are NOT mini adults. Compared with adults, kids have unique anatomical features such as a larger head size and a highly flexible spine which predispose them to injury to the upper portion of the cervical spine, compared to the rest of the body. A child neck is also disproportionately small to support his or her larger head. This is why younger children are made to face backwards in car seats during their first few years of life. Asides from common rear-end fender benders, major crashes that cause fatality or serious injures normally occur at the front or side of the vehicle. In a head-on crashes, vehicle occupants’s head are normally violently snapped forward toward the point of impact. “Rearward-facing” restraint systems can eliminate a child’s head movement x in the main phase of impact – which is essential considering the structure of their small necks and big heads.
Also, very small kids’ vertebraes are made of small bits of cartilage that has not yet fused into bone. When an adult is forced to jerk forward in a crash, the bony vertebrae prevents their spinal cord from stretching too much (unless the vertebrae fractures) – but when a young child experiences the same impact or forces, the spinal cord stretched to the point of no return. Why? by the time a child reaches the age of 2, there’s only a 50% chance that the vertebrae in the child neck have converted from cartilage to bone, and in most cases, a vertebrae won’t be fully converted to bone until the age of 5 or 6. Unlike bone, cartilage, allows a child’s spinal cord to stretch up to two inches – but it only takes a quarter of an inch to cause paralysis or death.
As kids age, this pattern of injury normally evolves into that more commonly seen in adults, where serious injury to the lower cervical spine is far more common.
Children and kids that suffered spinal cord injuries represent a different challenge than spinal cord injuries in adults given that they are still growing and developing – and as noted above, have major anatomical differences in the developing pediatric spine. There’s no doubt however that pediatric spinal cord injuries come with major physical and psychological challenges that will burden the child for a lifetime.
Most kids that suffer spinal cord injuries are as a result of blunt trauma but mechanisms of spinal cord injury in children can vary significantly. Mechanisms of acceleration/deceleration occur in young children normally during high-speed crashes, or when kids are hit by cars. Rotational injuries can also cause vertebral fractures and ligament disruption leading to spinal cord injury. Flexion and extension of the cervical cord can also interrupt motor symptoms and typically occur in falls or sporting events. Overall, typical causes of spinal cord injury among kids are motor vehicle related accidents, pedestrian accidents, falls, sport-related injuries, gunshot wounds, knife injuries and more importantly, bicycle related accidents. Studies have shown that boys are more likely to experience spinal trauma than girls.
No matter what the cause, cervical spinal cord injuries are life altering issues in the pediatric population and are economically impactful. The cost of care for a child that suffers a spinal cord injury could be staggering and range in the tens of millions of dollars. There is no doubt that a child will require items and care, such as:
If your child has suffered from a severe neck injury due to an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you have the right to sue the at-fault party for compensation. There are different types of compensation that you may be entitled to claim against the insurance company for the at-fault person or company. This can include:
We understand that this is a difficult and traumatic time in your life, and your family’s life. Our Hamilton personal injury lawyers ensure that we take care of all of the difficult and stressful legal elements of your claim so that you may spend as much time as possible caring for your child. Contact our offices at 905-333-8888 or by filling out a contact form, and we will set up a free, no-obligation consultation. If you are unable to travel, we will meet you where you are comfortable at your convenience.