Patient Information Resources

Alpine Physical Therapy
Three Locations
In North, South, and Downtown Missoula
Missoula, MT 59804
Ph: 406-251-2323
Fax: 406-251-2999

Child Orthopedics
Pain Management
Spine - Cervical
Spine - General
Spine - Lumbar
Spine - Thoracic

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How risky is it to play football with a previous cervical cord neuropraxia? That's the diagnosis I was given last year. I finished out the season okay. But now it's time for summer training and I have to make the final decision about returning to professional sports.

Since you are in professional sports, you know there's an ongoing debate about head and neck injuries on the field. How soon should these players be allowed to return to play? Players who suffer an undiagnosed concussion, compression to the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots, or other neck injury are in danger of long-term consequences. Early diagnosis and treatment may prevent serious complications. When the symptoms are mild, the athlete may "shake it off". More serious symptoms such as loss of sensation and the use of the arms are harder to mask. One of these conditions affecting the neck is the one you experienced called neuropraxia or cervical cord neuropraxia. The term neuropraxia describes symptoms of bilateral (affecting both sides) burning, numbness, loss of sensation, and muscle weakness of the arms and hands. The symptoms are caused by pressure on the spinal cord in the cervical spine (neck). It is like having a concussion to the spinal cord (instead of to the brain). The symptoms can last minutes up to hours. In all cases, players should not be approved to return to their sport until and unless they have normal neurologic function and pain free (and full) motion. Imaging studies should confirm that there is plenty of room in the spinal canal for the spinal cord (i.e., no more stenosis). And the spine should be stable with no signs of subluxation, dislocation, or hypermobile (excess) motion. With a past history of cervical cord neuropraxis, there is a risk of reinjury. The decision you must make is what degree of risk are you willing to accept in exchange for the financial gain by returning to play sports. No one can guarantee your safety. But the surgeon who treated you or who is following your case can give you an idea of how stable is your spine. Imaging studies can also offer information on the condition of your spinal cord and whether or not there is enough space around it to prevent compression under ordinary movement and activities. The spine should be stable with no signs of subluxation, dislocation, or hypermobile (excess) motion.


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