Spinal Injuries : Judo Injuries

Spinal injuries are very serious and require immediate medical attention. Fortunately they are not extremely common, with more minor injuries usually contributing to back pain (see our article for details), but they have been known to arise in judo and other combat sports because the repeated contact and hard landings increase the risks.

Symptoms of Spinal Injuries

The symptoms will largely depend on the severity of the spinal cord damage. Pain can be present, as can muscle spasms. You may experience a loss of sensation in the back and limbs, with these places feeling numb and unaffected by stimuli. Paralysis anywhere in your body should be taken seriously. Breathing problems are a possible complication. Occasionally the sufferer exhibits a loss of bowel or bladder control. These symptoms all point to spinal injury and must always be examined by a doctor. Seek an ambulance or a trip to the emergency room particularly in the event of more immediately alarming symptoms, e.g. poor breathing, paralysis or loss of sensation.

Causes of Spinal Injuries

A fall or another traumatic event is often the precursor to spinal injury, but equally the moment of injury may not seem abnormal. The power and speed involved in a collision or fall is often crucial, with high speed, high impact manoeuvres being most likely to cause harm.

Judo Risks

In judo the manner of throwing and falling are both important in keeping the athletes safe. Proper techniques are taught for each, so that the thrower tries to limit the amount of damage done to their competitor, and the falling athlete distributes their weight to avoid full-on impacts to their spine. However, the repetition of such manoeuvres increases the likelihood of an accident or mistake. Falling badly can be especially injurious to the spinal cord. Twisting at the same time as bearing the weight of your opponent is also potentially risky.

Medical Attention

The most important step is to see a doctor as soon as possible. The doctor will use the relevant tests and scans to scrutinise the spinal column and diagnose the condition. The prognosis and medical treatment will depend entirely on the exact nature of the injury, especially the location (cervical, thoracic, lumbar spine) and severity. Most injuries of this sort will necessitate extended rest from judo and other activities. A cast is often used to keep the spine in correct alignment and provide bone support.

Severe spinal injuries can cause a cervical fracture (broken neck), which requires immobilisation and usually surgery. Other spinal injuries can also require surgery for any chance at recovery. These injuries may lead to temporary or sustained paralysis which varies between each individual case, and some injuries do not fully heal. Your doctor will talk with you about all of these issues.

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