Study finds spinal cord injuries rising, falls are to blame

According to new research, one of the most serious injuries a person can suffer, a spinal cord injury, is occurring more frequently in the United States. The research, conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, analyzed a sample of 43,137 adults that visited emergency rooms for spinal cord injuries between 2007 and 2009.

The results of the research were recently published in the Journal of Neurotrauma. Some of the facts that were uncovered were:

  • The number of spinal cord injuries among those between the ages of 18 and 64 decreased from 52 per million people in 2007 to under 50 per million in 2009.
  • However, the number of spinal cord injures increased among those 65 or older. In 2007, there were 79 per million injuries in this age group. Two years later, the number increased to approximately 88 per million.
  • The average age of those suffering spinal cord injuries is increasing. Between 2001-2005, it was 41; by 2009, it had increased to 51.
  • About 41.5 percent of spinal cord injuries were caused by falls, compared to 35.5 percent caused by car accidents.

Aside from the overall increase in spinal cord injuries, perhaps the most surprising finding of the study was that car accidents are no longer the leading cause of such injuries, since this was the case for decades. Although the reason for this phenomenon cannot be pinpointed exactly, the researchers attribute it to seatbelt laws and car safety features that allow drivers to survive accidents, as well as an overall increase in the over-65 population.

Aftermath of spinal cord injuries

Since the spinal cord plays an important role in the brain's regulation of the muscular, urinary, gastrointestinal and respiratory systems, any damage to it can leave a person with serious conditions such as total or partial paralysis, loss of bladder or bowel control, and numbness.

Unfortunately, medical science has yet to find a way to effectively reverse spinal cord damage once it has occurred. As a result, those suffering from this type of injury generally require life-long care, which can be very costly. Treatment for a typical injury can cost between $500,000 and $3 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Apart from car accidents and falls, spinal cord injuries are commonly caused by sports injuries, workplace accidents and assault. Since many of these causes do not occur unless someone else was acting negligently, many spinal cord injury sufferers are able to exercise their legal right to recoup the considerable cost of medical treatment from the negligent party. If you have suffered a spinal cord injury, it is wise to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can investigate the circumstances of your accident and advise you on your claim for compensation.