Pediatric Spinal Trauma

At Children’s Health℠, children with spinal trauma typically come to the emergency department, where we have a team of specialists that can treat every part of the spine. These children often have other injuries as well, and our ICU and emergency department can provide all the expert care that they need.

What is Pediatric Spinal Trauma?

Spinal trauma is an injury to any part of the spinal column. This condition varies, depending on what caused the trauma and which parts of the body were involved. It can range from injured ligaments to fractured bones to nerve injuries that affect how different parts of the body move. Some injuries that cause spinal trauma also cause organ damage.

In children under age 8, we most often see spinal injuries close to the head caused by falls and car accidents. Older children tend to have spinal trauma lower in the back caused by sports and car accidents.

What are the different types of Pediatric Spinal Trauma?

Spinal trauma can affect different parts of the spinal column in different ways.


Fractures are injuries to the bones of the spine (the vertebrae).

Injuries to joints and ligaments

These injuries happen when the connections between bones (joints) and the ligaments that stabilize them get damaged.

Neurological injuries

Nerve injuries can affect how different parts of the body move or react.

What are the signs and symptoms of Pediatric Spinal Trauma?

The signs and symptoms of spinal trauma differ depending on how serious the injury was. They can include:

  • Difficulty feeling, moving or controlling the legs and/or arms
  • Difficult breathing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty controlling the bladder and bowels

How is Pediatric Spinal Trauma diagnosed?

To diagnose spinal trauma, the medical team will do a physical exam to test your child’s sensitivity to touch, reflexes and muscle strength.

They also may order:

What causes Pediatric Spinal Trauma?

Spinal trauma is usually caused by a sudden impact to the spine. Causes can include a fall, a car accident, a blow to the back or a sports accident.

How is Pediatric Spinal Trauma treated?

Your child’s treatment will depend on what type of injury they have and how serious it is. The care team may do surgery to correct a problem with the spinal cord, including adding rods and screws to hold parts of the spine in place. They may have your child wear a vest to support their neck or back and prevent movement. They also may give your child medication to help manage pain.

Pediatric Spinal Trauma Doctors and Providers

Your care team Children’s Health will include different types of specialists who can work with your child on every aspect of their care.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is my child with spinal trauma going to walk again?

    Your child’s ability to walk will depend on the injury.

    • If they can partly move after the injury, they likely will be able to move fully after receiving care.
    • If they cannot move after the injury, it may be harder for them to recover completely.
  • Will my child with spinal trauma be able to play sports?

    Children who have experienced spinal trauma can recover completely. If a child had surgery and their nerves recover fully, surgery should not affect their ability to play sports.