A strong force to the head, back, chest, feet or legs can result in a spinal injury. Common causes in young people include falling from height, body contact sports, car accidents or diving into a submerged object.
Symptoms include pain or tenderness at or around the injured neck or back, numbness, impaired or complete loss of movement below the injury site, tingling hands/feet, loss of bladder/bowel control, irregularly twisted neck and body.
If the patient is conscious:
1. Reassure but DO NOT move them unless in danger
2. Call Triple Zero (000) or mobile 112 for an ambulance
3. Do no remove helmet or other headwear unless CPR is required. Kneeling behind, keep patient's head and neck steady and aligned with your hands, towels or other cushioning until ambulance arrives
4. If patient begins to vomit or choke, roll them into recovery position with someone keeping their head, neck and spin aligned.
If the patient is unconscious but breathing:
1. Call Triple Zero (000) or mobile 112 for an ambulance
2. Place patient into recovery position with someone keeping their head, neck and spine aligned
3. Support their head and neck by using your hands, towels or other cushioning until ambulance arrives
4. If patient stops breathing, start CPR but DO NOT tilt head back for rescue breaths. Just giving chest compressions is better than no CPR at all.