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William E. Prentice


When you finish this chapter you should be able to

  • Understand the anatomy of the thorax and abdomen.

  • Identify the location and function of the heart and lungs.

  • Be aware of the location and function of the abdominal viscera related to the urinary system, the digestive system, the reproductive system, and the lymphatic system.

  • Be familiar with techniques for assessing thoracic and abdominal injuries.

  • Recognize various injuries to the structures of the thorax.

  • Review various injuries and conditions in the structures of the abdomen.


This chapter deals with sports injuries to the thorax and abdomen. In an athletic environment, injuries to the thorax and abdomen have a lower incidence than do injuries to the extremities. Sport-related injures to the organs of the thorax and abdomen are rare. Direct-contact organ injuries occur from player-to-player contact most often in football, wrestling, lacrosse, ice hockey, field hockey, and soccer. Fortunately, most of these injuries were not severe and very few are catastrophic.60 However, unlike the musculoskeletal injuries to the extremities discussed to this point, injuries to the heart, lungs, and abdominal viscera can be serious and even life-threatening if not recognized and managed appropriately. It is imperative for the athletic trainer to be familiar with the anatomy of and more common injuries seen in the abdomen and thorax (Figure 27–1).


Collision sports can produce serious thoracic and abdominal injuries. William E. Prentice


The thoracic cavity is the portion of the body commonly known as the chest, which lies between the base of the neck and the diaphragm. It consists of the thoracic vertebrae, the 12 pairs of ribs with their associated costal cartilages, and the sternum (Figure 27–2). Its main functions are to protect the vital respiratory and circulatory organs and to assist the lungs in inspiration and expiration during the breathing process. Within the thoracic cage lie the lungs, the heart, and the thymus.

The thoracic cage protects the heart and lungs.

Ribs, Costal Cartilage, and Sternum

The ribs are flat bones that are attached to the thoracic vertebrae in the back and to the sternum in the front. The upper seven ribs are called sternal, or true ribs, and each rib is joined to the sternum by a separate costal cartilage. The 8th, 9th, and 10th ribs (false ribs) have a common cartilage that joins the 7th rib before attaching to the sternum. The 11th and 12th ribs (floating ribs) remain unattached to the sternum but do have muscle attachments. ...

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