Dennis Byrd, Darryl Stingley, Mike Utley, Reggie Brown, Adam Taliaferro

Neck injuries are some of the most feared injuries among professional athletes due to their potentially permanent and devastating nature. The NFL has unfortunately had the most serious neck injuries which damage the spinal cord resulting in paralysis. Medical professionals have come a long way in their knowledge of treating serious neck injuries involving the spinal cord in an attempt to prevent complete paralysis in the injured athlete. This type of neck pain treatment begins with immobilizing the athlete’s neck to ensure that no further damage is done to the athlete when they are transported off the field or court. Once the athlete is immobilized, immediate neck pain treatment begins with the administration of medicines like Medrol.

The most dangerous result of a broken neck is when the spinal cord becomes severed. This is what leads to paralysis or death and is why it is essential to immobilize the neck immediately after it is injured. The type of acute neck injury is technically a fracture of one or more of the cervical vertebrae, also known as a “broken neck.” Thankfully, this type of injury is rare and usually only happens in contact sports such as football or hockey. In extremely rare cases, other professional sports involving high speeds such as car racing or skiing can also cause this type of injury.

Treating Serious Neck Injuries In Sports

After neck immobilization, neck pain treatment includes the use of anti-inflammatory medicine. Surgery may also be necessary, including the insertion of plates or screws to hold the vertebrae in position. This type of serous neck pain treatment may also involve fusing multiple vertebrae together. Generally all of these treatments involve the use of pain medication, often in large quantities and for long periods of time.

Common Neck Injuries in Sports

The more common neck injuries in sports include muscle strains and sprains that can severely limit the athlete’s range of motion and sometimes cause significant pain. These can include the classic car accident type of injury called “whiplash” in which the head is severely jerked forward and backward. This causes the soft tissues of the neck to stretch past their normal limits and can be quite painful and debilitating for an athlete. The neck pain treatment for this type of injury usually involves resting the injured area and administering anti-inflammatory and painkilling medications.

The Most Common Neck Injuries in Sports

The most common form of neck injuries in sports are those that result from overuse rather than an acute blow or wrench of the neck. These injuries include muscle strains of the neck and stiffened or herniated disks in the upper spine. The neck pain treatment for these conditions can include anti-inflammatory drugs, cortisone injections, muscle relaxants, physical therapy, and (in the most serious cases of disk problems) surgery. Many of these treatments can also be combined with injections or painkilling medications. For some individuals, acupuncture or electrical nerve stimulation can be an effective component of their neck pain treatment as well. 

The Danger of Painkiller Addiction from Neck Injury Treatment

Athletes with neck problems are vulnerable to to neck injury painkiller addiction. Due to the lingering nature of many of these injuries, athletes must be careful using pain medication as part of their neck pain treatment. Because many of these medications are psychologically and physically addictive, long term use of pain medication can quickly lead to dependence and abuse. Even after their neck pain treatment is complete, they can be left with a lingering addiction that is very difficult to break.