How to immobolize neck injuries in football with a backboard – Bill Stull

Bill Stull, the Pitt quarterback, was carted off the field on Saturday in a game against Rutgers. While Stull’s injuries aren’t serious, it did raise an interesting question. What happens when you cart someone off the field during a football game?

In most cases, the first responders are worried about neck and spinal injuries. The key is to ensure nothing else is affected and that the patient is immobilized. This allows the body to not harm itself and allows easy transportation. With Bill Stull, they left his helmet on, immobilized his back and then strapped him to a rescue board to ensure his body didn’t move.

His father said today:

He’s a little sore today, but he’s good to go. It’s nothing like it could have been or what we thought it was.

It’s good news for the Stull family and all Pitt fans, but what happens when you need to immobilize someone with a suspected neck and/or spinal injury?

The first thing you need to do is ensure there is no continuing danger to the injured person. For instance, on a football field you’ll want to stop play and move people away.

You’re going to want to check a few things to assess the situation:

  1. Is there pain in the neck or back region?
  2. Any cuts or bruising in the neck or back region?
  3. Is there movement in the extremities?
  4. Can the injured person feel sensation around their body?
  5. When you touch the injured person’s hand or foot can they feel it?
  6. Did they urinate or defecate without control?
  7. Is it obvious their head or neck are out of normal positioning?

If you suspect a neck or spinal injury call qualified medical personnel. If it’s a sporting event, most states have laws ensuring an ambulance is onsite.

When the first responders address the situation they will gently place a neck brace on the injured person. This ensures that the neck is stabilized. Next, they will place the injured person on a rescue board or back board. Allowing easy transportation, the back board keeps the injured person immobilized.

Here is an example video:

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