Most Common Ways to Sustain a Spinal Cord Injury
The spinal cord is the cluster of nerves that extends from the brain down through the bones of the spinal column. This cord carries signals between the brain and the rest of the body, and any injury to the spinal cord will interfere with these signals. Depending on the severity of a spinal cord injury, the victim may experience a loss of sensation, loss of function, or a combination of both. The location of the injury is also an important factor, as an injury higher on the spine will lead to more widespread effects than one in the lower region of the spine.
If your spinal cord was recently injured in an accident, contact a Kansas City spinal cord injury lawyer now.
Risk Factors for Spinal Cord Injuries
The most common cause of spinal cord injury in the United States is a traumatic injury from a motor vehicle accident. While some spinal cord injuries occur due to degenerative conditions and diseases like cancer and osteoporosis, the vast majority are the results of traumatic injuries.
In fact, roughly half of the more than 12,000 estimated annual spinal cord injuries in the U.S. occur during car accidents. Other common causes of spinal cord injuries include sports-related accidents, falls, playground injuries, or swimming injuries.
Men are at a statistically higher risk of sustaining spinal cord injuries, as men comprise 80% of all recorded spinal cord injuries in the United States. Younger individuals between the ages of 16 and 30 face the highest risk of sustaining spinal cord injuries. Some of the most commonly identified factors in U.S. spinal cord injuries include:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs
- Reckless or aggressive driving
- Engaging in risky behavior. This extends to dangerous driving, and to engaging in perilous recreational activities like rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding, or off-road biking. Younger individuals, particularly men, are more likely to engage in “thrill-seeking” and other risky behaviors.
- Failure to wear seatbelts. A properly worn seatbelt can help prevent some catastrophic injuries in the event of a car accident. Additionally, a seatbelt can prevent the force of some impacts from sending a driver or passenger flying forward through the windshield.
Older individuals over the age of 65 are additionally at a higher risk of sustaining spinal cord injuries due to falling. About one in every four adults over the age of 65 suffers a fall each year, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Older individuals are not as resilient to injury as younger adults are, and one out of every five falling accidents results in serious harm, such as a traumatic brain injury, broken bone, or spinal cord injury.
Degenerative disorders like osteoporosis or other joint conditions can also render a person more susceptible to spinal cord injuries. Over time, these conditions degrade the bones and leave them more vulnerable to traumatic impacts.
Effects of a Spinal Cord Injury
A spinal cord injury can cause a loss of sensation, a loss of motor function and strength, or both. If an injury completely severs the spine, then the nerve endings below the injury site will no longer transmit signals to the brain. A complete injury like this will lead to a permanent loss of function and sensation in the affected areas.
If an injury does not completely sever the spinal cord, some signals may still work, and the victim may experience reduced sensation, strength, or function, or a combination of these symptoms. Unlike the rest of the human body, the spinal cord cannot self-heal. Any injury to the cord is permanent, as are the resulting symptoms.
Considering that motor vehicle accidents are responsible for more than half of all recorded spinal injuries, the best way to prevent such injuries is to drive safely, refrain from driving under the influence of alcohol, and wear your seatbelt. Limiting risky behavior is a personal choice, but it is crucial to understand the risks you are assuming if you choose to partake in extreme sports or dangerous recreational activities.
If you or a loved one recently suffered a spinal cord injury, contact a Kansas City personal injury lawyer to learn about what you can do.