How spinal cord injuries happen, precautions to take - CBS46 News

How spinal cord injuries happen, precautions to take

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ATLANTA (CBS46) -

Creekside High School football player Deantre Turman died on Friday after taking a hit which broke his neck during a scrimmage.

Dr. Brandon Mines, with Emory Sports Medicine Center, is also a team physician with the Atlanta Falcons. He said you can't predict or prevent these types of injuries, but said there are precautions athletes at all levels can take.

Mines explains the spinal cord is vital to the rest of the body, and an injury, while rare, can be life-threatening.

"Breathing and conscious state, you're talking about upper spinal cord injuries, head injuries. If you sever your spinal cord high up like this young boy had, you will completely be no motor function. You can't breathe, your lungs won't expand," Mines said.

Mines recalls only a handful of similar accidents.

"It doesn't take a very hard hit. It takes just the right or wrong angle that you can't see with the naked eye. You're talking just small degrees off of where you'd expect a normal hit to occur. The area of concern where you're going to have a death occur is if it's high up enough in the vertebrae so first vertebrae is up here, second and third," Mines said.

The medical examiner found Turman fractured his third vertebra.

Mines said athletes take pre-participation exams which check neck motion and look for risk factors. That and proper tackling techniques are the two keys to prevention.

"We do work with youth kids in youth football to tackle properly and to limit these things from occurring, because decades ago, we know there were a lot more spinal injuries because of spearing and putting the head down in tackling. So we teach kids look where they're tackling so they're not leading with their head," Mines said.

Mines said it only takes a split second for a wrong position or hit to change a life but he stresses to parents these injuries are extremely rare.

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