Spinal fractures can cause severe pain if left untreated. One of the most common spinal fractures to happen in a car accident is the hangman’s fracture. This is a specific kind of break of the C2 vertebra. If you have a hangman’s fracture or think you might, here’s what you need to know.

What Is a Hangman’s Fracture?

This type of fracture happens when your head is abruptly snapped up and backward. It causes the C2 vertebra (also called the “axis”) to break in two places. The C2 is a vertebra in the upper part of your neck.

Like your other vertebrae, the C2 encircles your spinal cord. Even though that circle breaks on both sides, it doesn’t usually cause damage to your spinal cord immediately. 

That being said, a hangman’s fracture is usually an “unstable fracture,” which means that the bones can move. If movement happens, the injury might become more severe.

What Causes Hangman’s Fractures?

As you can tell from the name, a hangman’s fracture can happen if someone hangs themselves. However, most cases don’t occur from hanging. 

There are four common causes of these fractures:

In all of these situations, the break itself is caused by hyperextension of your spine. When your head snaps backward (like it might if you’re hit by a speeding car), your spine extends further backward than it should, breaking the C2 vertebra.

How Do You Know If You Have a Hangman’s Fracture?

If you’ve been in a car accident (and especially if you have other injuries), you might not be able to tell if you have a hangman’s fracture right away. 

However, you should look out for the following symptoms:

  • Pain in your neck
  • Weakness or numbness
  • Bruising around your neck
  • Trouble breathing

A hangman’s fracture can happen any time your head suddenly snaps up and back. To protect your health, it’s a good idea to see a doctor any time this happens.

How Hangman’s Fractures Are Treated

Most hangman’s fractures are able to heal completely if you get the right treatment. The key to treatment is immobilizing the C2 vertebra so it can heal without causing trauma to your spinal cord.

The vertebra is usually held in place by something called a “halo vest” or “cervical brace.” This brace includes a halo-like ring around your head that is pinned to your skull. That ring is then connected to a large brace worn around your torso.

If your fractures are extremely severe, you may need surgery. In this surgery, your doctor holds your vertebrae in place with metal hardware.

Both of these options may seem like major undertakings. However, because the consequences of leaving these fractures untreated can be devastating, wearing a halo brace or undergoing surgery is always the better choice.

What Happens If You Don’t Treat a Hangman’s Fracture?

Some types of fractures can get better by themselves. However, because a hangman’s fracture is unstable, there’s a possibility it can press on or damage your spinal cord. Spinal cord damage is life-threatening. It also may cause severe pain and even paralysis.

Healing From a Hangman’s Fracture

If you’ve suffered a hangman’s fracture, you already know how painful and disruptive they can be. But if you seek medical treatment promptly and make sure you follow your doctor’s advice, you can greatly reduce your risk of complications and put yourself on the path toward complete recovery.

Consult a New Port Richey Personal Injury Attorney For Help Recovering Compensation for a Hangman’s Fracture

For more information, please contact the legal team of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers for a free initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer in New Port Richey. We have four convenient locations in Florida: Clearwater, New Port Richey, and Tampa.

We serve throughout Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, Pasco County, and its surrounding areas:

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – Clearwater Office
1811 N. Belcher Road, Suite I-1
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 787-2500

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – Congress Ave Office
2360 Congress Avenue
Clearwater, FL 33763
(727) 591-5610

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – Tampa Office
6601 Memorial Hwy Suite 202
Tampa, FL 33615
(813) 686-7588

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – New Port Richey Office
2515 Seven Springs Blvd.
New Port Richey, FL, 34655
(727) 815-8442