Major Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries

The projected number of new cases of spinal cord injuries (SCI) in the US for the year 2005 was 11,000. By 2014 the number had gone up to 12,500 new cases and each year, more new SCIs, around this same number, gets added to the 276,000 children and adults believed to already be spinal cord injured. Male SCI patients make 82% of the total number, while 56% of those injured are aged between 16 and 30.

The spinal cord is a bundle of nerve tissues and support cells; it forms the central nervous system with the brain and is one of the human body’s most delicate and sensitive parts. While the brain acts as the body’s command center, the spinal cord serves as the pathway for all messages from the brain to the different parts of the body and vice versa.

Injuries to the spinal cord damage the ligaments or spinal column disks, the vertebrae, or the spinal cord itself. A spinal cord injury may be traumatic or non-traumatic. The former, which is characterized by a fractured, crushed, dislocated, or compressed area of the vertebrae, may be the result of a sudden, forceful blow to the spine, or a knife or gunshot would that pierces and cuts the spinal cord. Non-traumatic spinal cord injury, other hand, is usually due to disk degeneration of the spine, infections, inflammation, cancer or arthritis.

Any form of injury, especially severe injury, to the spinal cord can be devastating due to the very important function it plays in the human body. Spinal cord damage usually results to paralysis, either partial or total, depending on how severe the damage is and the specific area affected by the injury. Partial paralysis, referred to as Paraplegia, is loss of control and function on one side of the body. There is a possibility that a person, who is partially paralyzed, would still have sensation despite having lost control in the paralyzed area.

Total paralysis, called quadriplegia, means total loss of functions and control of body parts that are affected due to injury to the spinal cord. Total paralysis starts from the area of the spinal cord that has been injured down to the rest of the body; this means that the higher the injury, the greater the extent of paralysis.

Vehicular accidents were identified as the major causes of spinal cord injuries before the year 2000, when knife or gunshot wounds, due to violence, became this injury’s most common cause. A study by the Center for Surgical Trials and Outcomes Research of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 2014, however, revealed falls as the new leading cause of spinal cord injuries, especially in older people. Falls can happen anywhere. Often, though, the existence of hazards that increase risks of accidental falls is simply due to someone else’s act of negligence, like failure to: wipe and clean slippery surfaces, replace or fix torn carpet; put up signs that warn of uneven flooring ; and, tidy up exposed electrical wires.

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