The Spineboard

In the beginning

Before we can talk about the evolution of something, it is imperative we understand what that thing is all about. So what is a spineboard?

A spine board (or backboard) refers to a patient handling device used in pre-hospital trauma care, specifically to provide rigid movement for patients with suspected spinal limb injuries. They are very common with ambulance staffs, ski patrollers, and lifeguards.

Historical evolution of the spineboard

Centuries ago, early men used wood slabs with straps of sinew and leather to bind and secure an injured victim. The practice evolved a bit in 1979 when men started using slabs of woods together with straps of nylon webbing as a more advanced tool.  The majority of these boards were mostly manufactured of poorly sealed, inexpensive and incomplete plywood finish. Their unprofessional designs make them look bad when used, and considering their porous nature; they also absorbed fluids.

An advanced backboard

a wooden parr backboard

Bound Tree Parr via a picture from an ebay post that is no longer up

However, a little progress was made with the introduction of the Parr Backboard which featured quality Baltic Birchwood. The board has many great layers of sealants displaying impeccably over a baby-smooth sanding job. The Parr Backboard was a custom-made product with reinforced runners, lots of handholds and strap-pin locations. One such board is a regional favorite in the Mid-Atlantic and is called the Henley Board from Maryland,–one that still maintains innovative and sturdy head immobilizer mechanism.

Enter the Plastic Backboard

Be that as it may, the advent of the dreaded HIV led to an increase in awareness among clinical experts and the need to control infection issues. From the increased sensitivity comes Plastic Backboards which quickly turn out to be the favorite material for backboards.

Some of the early and famously used synthetic plastic backboard was Ferno’s folding backboards which feature prominently in ambulances and were very reliable in performance. Today, the company (Ferno) is still a remarkable brand making waves with their plastic backboard, with different types and style of models in one catalog.

photo of an ambulance from 1975

Source: 1975 ambulance via 111 Emergency from New Zealand

Earliest Plastic backboards were either one-piece boards with acrylic runners or two-piece plastic. Some of these plastic boards use ABS plastic, which is a bit heavy. However, the real game-changing technology that emboldens plastic spineboards was the inclusion of rotational molding.

By using polyurethane-foam-filled high-density shells, these two parts were lightweight but sturdy and could withstand aggressive EMS use another popular two-part composite version incorporates fiberglass rods inside a hollow plastic board.

More advanced spineboard versions

The success recorded in two-part plastic spineboards led to the construction of a three-part version.  This uses molded hollow polyethene plastic laden with polyurethane foam with carbon plastic rods. The rods enable the structure to be stronger, but with time, the board could become flexible when the rods displace the foam inside the board.

Latest spineboard evolution

The latest evolution involves the direct placement of the rods inside the molded plastic channels, allowing them to make contact with the plastic while the board appears well padded. This latest evolution allowing the rod to touch the plastic provides for a firm bonding as well as improving wear. The method is currently being used by most boards in the market.

Contour boards are another innovative development, featuring a concave surface which provides lateral stability and comfort. The EZ Lift Rescue System and the Kemp Lifeguard AB Spineboard are typical examples of highly reliable modern designs with unique features.

From the preceding, it is safe to say that the Backboard has evolved significantly over the past two thousand years, most especially for the past 20 years.

Linda Rawson is the CEO, and Founder of DynaGrace Enterprises, (http://DynaGrace.com) which is a Women-Owned, 8(a) Minority, Small Business. She is also the author of The Minority and Women-Owned Small Business Guide to Government Contracts.


Resource: http://www.ezliftrescue.com/

Image Resource:  Featured Image Source: Civil War Civil War ambulance crew demonstrating removal of injured soldiers from the field via Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Civil War Photographs, reproduction number, LC-DIG-cwpb-03950, http://www.ezliftrescue.com/https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_John_Ambulance_-_Flickr_-_111_Emergency.jpg via 111 Emergency from New Zealand,

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