Background: The purpose of this study was to determine patterns of spinal injury and clinical outcomes resulting from motorcycle crashes.
Methods: We analyzed data collected on 1,121 motorcyclists involved in road traffic accidents (from 1993-2000) and identified those who had sustained a spinal injury.
Results: Spinal injury occurred in 126 (11.2%) riders (112 male riders [88.9%] and 14 female riders [11.1%]), with a mean age of 30.2 years (range, 16-61 years) and Injury Severity Score of 18.8 (range, 4-66). Isolated injuries to the spine occurred in 30 (23.8%) riders. The thoracic spine was injured in 69 (54.8%), the lumbar spine in 37 (29.4%), and the cervical spine in 34 (27.0%) cases. Multiple vertebral levels were affected in 54 (42.9%). Neurologic injury occurred in 25 riders (19.8%), with complete distal neurologic injury in 14 (4 cervical, 9 thoracic, and 1 lumbar). Eleven (8.7%) patients required spinal surgery. There were 13 (10.3%) deaths.
Conclusion: The thoracic spine is the most commonly injured spinal region in motorcycle crashes. Multiple level injuries are common. Protocols concentrating on the radiographic clearance of the cervical region may miss a significant number of spinal injuries. Vigilance is required in assessing these patients, who often have multiple injuries.