Beth Sullivan | May 13th, 2019
Jason Pierre-Paul was involved in a single car accident recently in which he sustained a reported fractured neck that could leave his ability to play in 2019 very questionable.
Neck injuries are the most common injury when a single or multiple car accident occurs. A neck fracture sounds very serious, and it is, however most neck fractures are not like breaking a wrist or ankle bone. The reason for this is because of the tight spatial tolerances in the neck for all the bones, nerves, and blood vessels to co-exist.
In car accidents, a condition called whiplash occurs when the head moves forcibly forward after the vehicle stops moving because of the crash and then moves forcibly in the opposite direction resulting in hyperextension of the neck. This results in severe stress being placed on the tiny muscles holding the vertebrae in place. The overstretched muscles can become inflamed and swollen resulting in a stiff neck. If the force exerted in the crash is strong enough a vertebral stress fracture can happen. This is where the muscle pulls off the vertebrae taking a small piece of bone with it. This is called a neck fracture. A stress fracture is usually treated with a neck brace to support the alignment while the injury heals. A compression fracture occurs when the anterior portion of the vertebrae is pushed into the vertebral body of the next lower vertebrae. This results in the bone being compressed and broken. This could be compared to stepping on a kids toy and it breaking because your weight was too much for the toy.
Since the exact nature of his injury has not been disclosed, but since he did not have to stay in the hospital for an extended period of time, he was able to elect not to have surgery to stabilize the fracture and his return eventually has not been ruled out. More serious types of fractures are probably not in play and are out of the scope of this article.
Typical recovery time from stress and compression fractures is six to eight weeks, assuming there are no complications. If any nerve compression or malalignment results, the recovery time could be prolonged. A fracture of the spinous or transverse process of the vertebrae that is in good alignment can be allowed to heal without surgery. The recovery time for this type of injury is anywhere from 3-6 months depending on how quickly the bones fully heal. Unlike a long bone fracture, where once the outer bone heals, you can begin using it again, a vertebral fracture must be completely healed throughout the bone to provide stability of the neck and decrease the risk of nerve damage. I suspect given the location of the injury in the body, doctors have told him that he will not be cleared to return until any risk of further injury has been eliminated by the complete healing of the current injury.
Given the seriousness of this recent injury to JPP, I’m sure we are all hoping he has a speedy uneventful recovery and can return to the playing field quickly.
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