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AtlantiCare sees increase in beach, water-related spinal cord injuries

In a single week – the last week of July, 2012 - AtlantiCare treated eight patients who sustained spinal cord injuries while on the beach or in the water. “Since Memorial Day our aquatic injuries have more than doubled compared to last year,” said explained Monica Titus, MBA, BSN, RN, director of the AtlantiCare Neurosciences Institute and the AtlantiCare Regional Trauma Center. “The Trauma Center is on track to record its largest number summer of aquatic injuries, with spinal cord injuries being the leading diagnosis.”


The patients who suffered these injuries ranged in age from 12 to 69. Aquatic injuries historically at ARMC have ranged from minor traumatic to fatal injuries. So far this summer the Trauma Center has treated over 400 trauma patients. Of those, 24 had beach/water related injuries. “Even one traumatic or spinal cord injury is one too many,” said Titus. “Prevention is the key.”


“In addition to the beach and water-related spinal cord injuries treated in the last week, the Trauma Center has cared for patients suffering from concussions to traumatic brain injuries, chest and abdominal injuries to the  kidney, liver and spleen,” said Alexander Axelrad, MD, medical director, Trauma, ARMC. “Body surfing is the most common activity that can result in traumatic injury. Powerful waves can thrust your head to the ground, causing neck injuries, paralysis or even death. Boogie boarding, boating and personal watercraft accidents can also cause serious or fatal injuries.”


“We want the local residents of our community and our visitors to enjoy the beaches, the ocean, water-sports, and all the fun southern New Jersey has to offer, but we want them to do so safely,” said Ciro Randazzo, MD, MPH, AtlantiCare Neurosciences Institute and assistant professor of Neurological Surgery, Department of Neurological Surgery, Thomas Jefferson University. Randazzo recently provided spinal cord injury education at AtlantiCare’s third annual Lifeguards SAVE. This annual event recognizes lifeguards for their Safe Attitudes and Valiant Efforts (SAVE) in collaboration with the Life Rolls On™ Foundation and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. “It’s important that beachgoers listen to the lifeguards’ warnings,” he said.


“When we pull surfing and boogie boards from the ocean it’s for the safety of those using the boards and others who could be in their path,” said Mark Jamieson, Ocean City Beach Patrol trainer, who has attended AtlantiCare’s Lifeguards SAVE events with other members of the OCBP. He explained the Beach Patrol is focused on preventing concussions, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic injuries and on identifying any symptoms of these injuries if an accident occurs. Jamieson said even those without boards are equally at risk. “If you’re in the path of a board or you dive in a shallow wave that breaks close to the sand, you could suffer a serious injury.”


“Most of the beach and water-related spinal cord injuries we treated were preventable,” said Kristen Radcliff, MD, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in spine surgery at the Rothman Institute at AtlantiCare and is among the specialists who treat ARMC Trauma patients.


ARMC offered the following safety tips for preventing spinal cord and other traumatic injuries:


·         Heed lifeguards’ warnings.

·         Swim in only lifeguard protected waters.

·         Check wave conditions before hitting the water.

·         Avoid big or rough waves and waves breaking into shallow water close to shore.

·         Keep your arms over your head to protect it from hitting the ocean floor.

·         Ride the surf at an angle to the waves, rather than in a straight line toward the shore.

·         Body surf with a partner.

·         Know your beach and surf – be aware of rocks, jetties and sandbanks.

·         Keep your eye on children.

·         Practice courtesy and safety – stay clear of other bathers and be watchful of others.



·         Never swim or surf at night.

·         Never run and dive into the surf.

·         Never dive into a shallow pool.

·         Never combine alcohol with body surfing or other water or summer activities.

For more information about the AtlantiCare Neurosciences Institute, the Regional Trauma Center at AtlantiCare, or other AtlantiCare programs and services, or to find an AtlantiCare physician or provider, call the AtlantiCare Access Center at 1-888-569-1000, visit www.atlanticare.org or find AtlantiCare on Facebook at www.facebook.com/atlanticare.


Contact:          Jennifer Tornetta, 609-569-7010,

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                        Frank Tedesco, 609-748-7539,

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AtlantiCare is an integrated system of services designed to help people achieve optimal health. It includes AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, AtlantiCare Health Engagement, the AtlantiCare Foundation, and AtlantiCare Health Services. Its more than 5,461 employees and 600 physicians serve the community in more than 60 locations. A 2009 Malcolm Baldrige Award winner, AtlantiCare was also included in Modern Healthcare’s Best Places to Work in Healthcare in 2010. ARMC became the 105th hospital in the nation to attain status as a Magnet™ designated hospital in March of 2004 and was redesignated a Magnet™ hospital in 2008.

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