Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Neck FAQ

Question:

Does everyone who breaks their neck die or end up like Superman's Christopher Reeves?

Answer:

Christopher Reeve, the actor of Superman fame, did break his neck in a horse riding accident. His injury was severe enough to cause complete paralysis below the neck, including being unable to breathe without help. Many people, when they think of broken necks, think about his case or those of people who have died. However, this isn't always the case. Death after breaking the neck occurs if injury affects the breathing, the body goes into shock, or some other illness or condition in the body contributes to the death. Many people do break their neck and don't die or even have any long-lasting handicaps. This is due to where the break occurred in the neck, how severe it was, and - very importantly - what type of care they received, right from the moment the accident happened. Joost J. van Middendorp, MD, et al. Methodological Systematic Review: Mortality in Elderly Patients with Cervical Spine Injury. In Spine. May 1, 2010. Vol. 35. No. 10. Pp. 1079-1087.

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