Unusual Pattern of Spinal Injuries in San Francisco Airliner Crash

Worst of the injuries are crushed vertebrae and two passengers unable to move their legs.

 

 
 
 

LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer | | Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Many survivors of Saturday's plane crash in San Francisco have a surprising pattern of spine injuries that a doctor says shows how violently they were shaken despite wearing seat belts.

JEMS Asiana Airliner Crash Coverage

So far, two people are unable to move their legs — doctors don't yet know if the damage is permanent — and several others have needed surgery to stabilize their spines so they can move, said Dr. Geoffrey Manley, neurosurgery chief at San Francisco General Hospital who is overseeing their care.

Among the worst injuries are crushed vertebrae that compress the spinal cord, and ligaments so stretched and torn that they can't hold neck and back joints in place, Manley said in an interview Monday.

That 305 of the 307 passengers and crew of the Asiana jet survived the crash is remarkable, and a testimony to improvements in airline safety in recent years. More than 180 people went to hospitals with injuries, but only a small number were critically injured.

Still, Manley said even among those who suffered mild spine trauma, he is struck by a pattern that shows how their upper bodies were flung forward and then backward over the lap belts that kept them in their seats and undoubtedly saved their lives.

The injuries are somewhat reminiscent of the days before shoulder belts in cars, although much more severe, said Dr. David Okonkwo of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who isn't involved with the survivors' care.

Does that mean shoulder belts in airplanes would prevent such injuries? Okonkwo said that's simplistic considering how much more speed and force are involved in a plane crash. Shoulder belts might just transfer that force to the neck, he cautioned.

"If you put in the shoulder belt, it might just move the injuries up further. Your head weighs a tremendous amount," agreed San Francisco's Manley. He hopes to study the issue, comparing survivors' injuries to where they sat.

The airline industry says adding three-point seatbelts to airplanes would require major changes to seat design that would mean higher airfares and less comfort.

Some business class seats have added a type of shoulder restraint, but those seats are more like beds and often don't face forward.

Meanwhile, Okonkwo said assuming the "crash position" — leaning forward with the head as far down as possible and arms over it — can limit the spine jolting back and forth and offer some protection. It's not clear if any survivors of Saturday's crash had time to do so.

___

AP Airlines Writer Scott Mayerowitz contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.



Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, spinal injuries, Asiana Airlines Crash

 
What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

The Evolution of Civilian High Threat Medical Guidelines

How mass killing events have proven a need for new guidelines.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Ebola Changes How North Carolina EMS Responds to Calls

Concern about virus spread leads to new protocols.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Oklahoma Hospitals Prepare for Ebola Cases

Training and preparation are keys for metro hospitals.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

EMS in Nevada Prepares for the Unexpected

Protocols and PPE protect AMR personnel.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

D.C. Fire and EMS Brace for Possible Ebola Patients

Union leader shares concern over precautions.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Life Link III Trauma Tactics Conference in Minnesota

Conference was designed to enhance the skills of providers of all levels, covering rescue and prehospital situations, to transport and in-hospital treatment.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

EMS Tailgating

Rigs converted for football.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

CDC Ebola Training for Clinicians

Students learn the complexities of working in bulky suits.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


More Product Videos >