Text: Mariola Weindich-Mašek, photos: press release

30 June 2017

Despite many educational campaigns each year in Poland grows a number of young people paralyzed after unfortunate jumping on head. There are also fatal accidents.

The unfortunate jumps on head may end up in spine injuries, permanent disability or even drowning as a result of aspiration. The return to normality after an accident is especially difficult and sometimes even impossible. Almost half of the spine injuries connected to jumping into the water are the spinal cord injuries resulting in the limb paralysis. It may also end up in the spinal fracture.

A type of injury depends on the force of hitting the body on the water surface or the bottom. It is influenced by several factors, e.g. height of jumping, body weight and the depth of the water reservoir. The shallower the water is, the greater is the possibility of a serious injury. However even such seemingly deep water or a proved reservoir may be a great danger because we may hit the bottom or a rock or any object laying there.

Dr Artur Zaczyński, a neurosurgeon from the Spine Disease Centre in Carolina Medical Center explains that of utter importance is the place of injury – the closer to the head the worse – the most serious and unfortunately most common ones concern the neck section. An injury below the chest usually ends up in legs paralysis.

  • Hitting a head results in many types of injuries. Those small which may be felt as stiffening, pulling or quiver in the neck section stop automatically or after a rehabilitation. Treating the paralysis of the limbs lasts longer with different results – sometimes the paralysis stops completely, but sometimes in ends up in complete or partial paresis. A result of a spinal cord disruption may be an extensive paralysis or even death – warns the neurosurgeon.

Spinal concussion

The mildest consequence of jumping on head is the spinal concussion so a disruption of its motor functions for a few seconds.  A momentary disruption of a function of a spine causes the muscle tension that needs a rehabilitation and a massage.

 Spinal fracture

Jumping into water may also lead to a spinal injury without damaging the spinal cord. The consequences of injuring the spine are a bit less serious than injuring the cord, however they are still very severe. The patient has feeling and may move his limbs. In such case the most important is the first aid without which the fractured spine may injure the spinal cord.

The fractured spine causes pain in its region. In order to relieve it, the patient must wear the support corset for at least few months. Of utmost importance is the rehabilitation, the aim of which is the minimization of the injury results and the prevention of the degenerative changes. They may in future cause another injuries because of the change in the spine balance and the overloading of the core and discs – explains dr Artur Zaczyński. – Often it is necessary to stiffen the spine in a surgery or even to place an implant. After such a treatment a patient may recover in a few weeks – adds dr Zaczyński.

Spinal cord transection

The most severe form of accidents while jumping in water are the twists and transections of the core resulting from the dislocation of the neck backbone or its breaking. An injury in the core causes the neurological change. It results in the paralysis of the diaphragm nerve and the patient suffocates. His life depends on a quick first aid with an intubation.

Another effect of a thoughtless holiday daredevilry may be a paraplegia, so the lower limbs paresis with maintaining the ability of the upper limbs. The patient can control the muscles of arms and elbows and may move the hands. The characteristic features of paraplegia is the urine passing disorder. After such a jump a patient must work hard to return to his full ability, however it is rare to return to the state from before the accident.

The tetraplegia and the paralysis of the upper body muscles are the results of the spine injured on the higher levels of the neck backbone. Then the patient cannot eat by himself and has problems with swallowing. Only after a long rehabilitation he may partially regain the ability to use his hands.

The tetraplegia with a respiratory system disorders (pentaplegia) that requires the respirator is the most common case of the neurological disorders. Usually it is connected with the intestinal disorders and the sweating of the skin. A long rehabilitation prevents serious complications such as decubitus or contractures. In the treatment it is necessary to use the so-called exoskeleton so the uniform that facilitates moving and bringing patient to an erect position. What is more, the exoskeleton changes the cardiovascular capacity, enhances the circulation and decreases the risk of osteoporosis connected to continuous laying down.

  • Injuring the spine sections or discs needs an immediate stabilization of the spine by the means of surgery. We try to get rid of the excessive movement caused by the injury. Already on the next day the patient may be fully rehabilitated. However we cannot expect that in each case the cord will recover. If in the accident the patient did not experience any neurological deficits, he will have a great chance to recover. If the paralysis occurred, the chances are small – explains dr Zaczyński.

The victims of jumping into water are usually teenage boys and young men. Despite many social campaigns that every year warn against the holiday daredevilry at water, the accidents still happen. That is why we should take into consideration that one jump may change our entire life forever. So before you jump, consider if it is worth it.