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Be an emergency aider: spinal injuries

Learn the signs and symptoms of spinal injuries and find out what you should do to help.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Chairs

Before you begin

  • Make sure the person leading the activity knows about first aid. Someone from your group or local area with a first aid certificate could take charge, or you could reach out to places that help provide first aid training or support, for example, St John Ambulance or the British Red Cross.
  • You’ll need enough leaders for the activity, including enough people who are happy to demonstrate first aid techniques.
  • Adults should only demonstrate and practise first aid on other adults; young people should only demonstrate and practise first aid on other young people. Adults and young people should never demonstrate or practise first aid on each other.
  • Remember that this activity touches on topics that might be sensitive for some people. Give everyone the opportunity to step away if they need to compose themselves.
  • Set out the chairs in semi-circle facing the speaker and get everyone to sit down.

Learn what to do for a spinal injury

  1. Have a quick chat with everyone to find out what they know about spinal injuries. Why are they serious? How do they happen?
  2. Explain that people with spinal injuries need to be immobilised as soon as possible. They should help everyone to understand the signs and symptoms of a potential spinal injury.
  1. Demonstrate with another adult how to treat a possible spinal injury.
  2. Everyone should get into groups of three young people. One person should be the casualty, one person should be the first aider, and the third person should watch and help if needed. They should practise treating the casualty for a spinal injury, swapping roles so that everyone has a turn at being the first aider. Make sure there are adults walking around so they can help if anyone’s finding it tricky.


This activity was all about developing skills and being responsible. Can anyone remember what a first aider should do until emergency help arrives? Why is it so important? Some activities have a higher risk of spinal injuries: can anyone think of activities with a very low or slightly higher risk? People could think about playing board games compared to adventurous activities and sports like horse riding and rugby. Why is it important that people playing sports or having adventures know what to do in an emergency?


All activities must be safely managed. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.