Last week, a Miami state champion gymnast fell directly on his head after practicing a double flip for his upcoming tryouts with Cirque du Soleil. The 20-year-old man was immediately taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. He had dislocated two vertebrae from the fall, and the spinal cord injury left him unable to move his legs or hands. He was able to slightly move his arms.
However, just days after the accident, the gymnast walked out of the hospital, fully recovered. Doctors believe that the gymnast was able to recover so quickly because the man was immediately taken to the hospital, and because he underwent hypothermic treatment for the injury.
Hypothermic treatment for spinal cord injuries is a fairly new form of treatment in the field. Hypothermia was first used to treat patients who had suffered from cardiac arrest, but doctors at Jackson Memorial began adopting the treatment for brain and spinal cord patients about five years ago. Individuals who undergo hypothermic treatment after suffering a severe trauma have their body temperature brought down to 92.3 degrees Fahrenheit. The normal body temperature for humans is 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
By reducing the individual’s body temperature, swelling and inflammation caused by the trauma is reduced. Just as we have mentioned with brain injuries, reducing swelling helps prevent further damage to the body and prevents other injuries. The colder body temperature slows down an individual’s metabolism, therefore slowing swelling and inflammation as well.
Although the gymnast’s recovery amazed doctors, especially because they believed the man would never be able to walk again, doctors do want to remind individuals that the circumstances must almost be perfect for an individual to recover from such an injury. We will continue discussing this story later this week. We will discuss why this patient was a great candidate for the treatment and surgery, and why the man’s recovery is so rare.
Source:The Miami Herald: “An injured gymnast, treated with hypothermia, walks out of the hospital,” Howard Cohen, 10 Feb. 2011