✓ The hallmark of concussion injuries of the nervous system is the rapid and complete resolution of neurological deficits. Cerebral concussion has been well studied, both clinically and experimentally. In comparison, spinal cord concussion (SCC) is poorly understood. The clinical and radiological features of 19 SCC injuries in the general population are presented. Spinal cord injuries were classified as concussions if they met three criteria: 1) spinal trauma immediately preceded the onset of neurological deficits; 2) neurological deficits were consistent with spinal cord involvement at the level of injury; and 3) complete neurological recovery occurred within 72 hours after injury.
Most cases involved young males, injured during athletics or due to falls. Concussion occurred at the two most unstable spinal regions, 16 involving the cervical spinal and three the thoracolumbar junction. Fifteen cases presented with combined sensorimotor deficits, while four exhibited only sensory disturbances. Many patients showed signs of recovery with the first few hours after injury and most had completely recovered within 24 hours. Only one case involved an unstable spinal injury. There was no evidence of ligamentous instability, spinal stenosis, or canal encroachment in the remaining 18 cases. Two patients, both children, suffered recurrent SCC injuries. No delayed deterioration or permanent cord injuries occurred.
Spinal abnormalities that would predispose the spinal cord to a compressive injury were present in only one of the 19 cases. This suggests that, as opposed to direct cord compression, SCC may be the result of an indirect cord injury. Possible mechanisms are discussed.