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The seven bones in the neck make up the cervical vertebrae. They support the head and connect it to the shoulders and body. A fracture, or break, in one of the cervical vertebrae, must be examined by a pediatric orthopedic physician who understands how to best treat a growing child with neck pain and this condition.


Little girl in a neck braceCervical fractures usually result from high-energy trauma, such as automobile crashes or falls. Athletes are also at risk. A cervical fracture can occur if:

  • A football player butts an opponent with his head.
  • An ice hockey player is struck from behind and rams into the boards.
  • A gymnast misses the high bar during a release move and falls.
  • A diver strikes the bottom of a shallow pool.

Any neck injury involving the vertebrae can have serious consequences.  To clarify, this is because the spinal cord runs through the center of the vertebrae. Damage to the spinal cord can result in serious injury. Injury to the spinal cord at the level of the cervical spine can lead to temporary or permanent paralysis To explain, this could be the entire body from the neck down.

Emergency Response

Boy with hitting soccer ball with his headIn a trauma situation, the neck should be immobilized until an X-ray exam is completed and reviewed by a physician. Emergency medical personnel will assume that an unconscious individual has a neck injury and respond accordingly. The victim may experience shock and either temporary or permanent paralysis.

At Medical City Children’s Orthopedic and Spine Specialists, our physicians have the experience and expertise to diagnose and treat serious, complex spinal conditions. Conscious patients with acute neck injury may or may not have severe neck pain. They may also have neck pain that spreads to the shoulders or arms, resulting from the vertebra compressing a nerve. There may be some bruising and swelling at the back of the neck.

Our pediatric orthopedic spine specialists will perform a complete neurological examination to assess nerve function. In addition, our doctors may request additional scans such as X-Ray, MRI, or a CT, to help in the diagnosis.

“Quality of care is important in the treatment of spine and neck injuries. Across the board, our surgical infection rates are low and our patient satisfaction scores are high. We’ve performed more than 6,000 successful surgeries related to the spine and neck; so when a child says that his or her neck hurts, we can really help”.  Shyam Kishan, MD

Neck Treatment And Injury Prevention

Treatment will depend on which of the seven cervical vertebrae are damaged, the neck pain, and the kind of fracture that was sustained. A minor compression fracture can be treated with a cervical brace worn for 6 to 8 weeks until the bone heals. A more complex or extensive fracture may require traction, surgery, 2 to 3 months in a rigid cast, or a combination of these treatments.

Prevention of Neck Injuries in Sports

Improvements in athletic equipment and rule changes have reduced the number of sports-related cervical fractures over the past 20 years. You can help protect your children by adhering to the following suggestions:

  • Always insist that your children wear a seatbelt in the front or back seat of a car.
  • Never allow your children to dive into a shallow pool area and be sure that children are properly supervised when swimming and diving.
  • Ensure that your children wear the proper protective equipment for their sport and follow all safety regulations, such as having a spotter and appropriate cushioning mats.


Medical City Children’s Orthopedic and Spine Specialists have experience and expertise to treat complex spine and neck conditions. Our board-certified physicians specialize in the treatment of children and adolescents and can give your child the care and attention they deserve.

Call 214-556-0590 to make an appointment.

Comprehensive services for children from birth through adolescence at four
convenient locations: Arlington, Dallas, Frisco and McKinney.