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What are signs of a head, neck, or spinal injury?

A rescuer should always suspect a head and/or spinal injury when a person is found unconscious, when a victim experiences a fall from a height, or when the incident involves lightning. Some other signs of head or spinal injury include blood or other fluids coming from the ears or nose; unusual bumps or depressions on the head or spine; and/or headaches, seizures, or confused/slurred speech. (This answer provided for NATA by the Eastern Kentucky University Athletic Training Education Program.)
You should suspect a head, neck, or spinal injury if the person:
  • Was involved in a motor vehicle crash or subjected to another significant force
  • Was injured as a result of a fall from greater than a standing height
  • Is wearing a safety helmet that is broken
  • Complains of neck or back pain
  • Has tingling or weakness in the extremities
  • Is not fully alert
  • Is injured and appears to be intoxicated
  • Is injured and appears to be frail or older than 65 years
  • Is a child younger than 3 years with evidence of a head or neck injury

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.