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Management of head and neck injuries by the sideline physician

John W Whiteside
American Family Physician 2006 October 15, 74 (8): 1357-62
17087430
Injuries to the head and neck are common in sports. Sideline physicians must be attentive and prepared with an organized approach to detect and manage these injuries. Because head and neck injuries often occur simultaneously, the sideline physician can combine the head and neck evaluations. When assessing a conscious athlete, the physician initially evaluates the neck for spinal cord injury and determines whether the athlete can be moved safely to the sideline for further evaluation. This decision is made using an on-field assessment of the athlete's peripheral sensation and strength, as well as neck tenderness and range of motion. If these evaluations are normal, axial loading and Spurling testing can be performed. Once the neck has been determined to be normal, the athlete can be assisted to the sideline for assessment of concussion symptoms and severity. This assessment should include evaluations of the athlete's reported symptoms, recently acquired memory, and postural stability. Injured athletes should be monitored with serial examinations, and those with severe, prolonged, or progressive findings require transport to an emergency department for further evaluation.

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