Can a rescuer or simulated patient accurately assess motion during cervical spine stabilization practice sessions?

J Athl Train. Jan-Feb 2012;47(1):42-51. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-47.1.42.


Context: Health care providers must be prepared to manage all potential spine injuries as if they are unstable. Therefore, most sport teams devote resources to training for sideline cervical spine (C-spine) emergencies.

Objective: To determine (1) how accurately rescuers and simulated patients can assess motion during C-spine stabilization practice and (2) whether providing performance feedback to rescuers influences their choice of stabilization technique.

Design: Crossover study.

Setting: Training studio.

Patients or other participants: Athletic trainers, athletic therapists, and physiotherapists experienced at managing suspected C-spine injuries.

Intervention(s): Twelve lead rescuers (at the patient's head) performed both the head-squeeze and trap-squeeze C-spine stabilization maneuvers during 4 test scenarios: lift-and-slide and log-roll placement on a spine board and confused patient trying to sit up or rotate the head.

Main outcome measure(s): Interrater reliability between rescuer and simulated patient quality scores for subjective evaluation of C-spine stabilization during trials (O = best, 10 = worst), correlation between rescuers' quality scores and objective measures of motion with inertial measurement units, and frequency of change in preference for the head-squeeze versus trap-squeeze maneuver.

Results: Although the weighted κ value for interrater reliability was acceptable (0.71-0.74), scores varied by 2 points or more between rescuers and simulated patients for approximately 10% to 15% of trials. Rescuers' scores correlated with objective measures, but variability was large: 38% of trials scored as 0 or 1 by the rescuer involved more than 10° of motion in at least 1 direction. Feedback did not affect the preference for the lift-and-slide placement. For the log-roll placement, 6 of 8 participants who preferred the head squeeze at baseline preferred the trap squeeze after feedback. For the confused patient, 5 of 5 participants initially preferred the head squeeze but preferred the trap squeeze after feedback.

Conclusions: Rescuers and simulated patients could not adequately assess performance during C-spine stabilization maneuvers without objective measures. Providing immediate feedback in this context is a promising tool for changing behavior preferences and improving training.

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Head Movements
  • Humans
  • Immobilization*
  • Motion
  • Neck Injuries*
  • Rescue Work
  • Self Report
  • Spinal Injuries*
  • Spine
  • Stretchers