An Overview of Spinal Cord Injuries and the Damage They Can Cause

A spinal cord injury is damage to any part of your spinal cord or the nerves there. This serious injury can lead to permanent changes in the function of your body below the site of the damage. 

These injuries are classified as either traumatic or non-traumatic. Traumatic spinal cord injuries happen as a result of a sudden event like crushing in a car accident, a construction site mishap, or even a gunshot or knife wound. Non-traumatic injuries can be caused by medical conditions like arthritis, infections and cancer.

Why are spinal cord injuries so serious?

Messages from your brain are carried throughout the body by way of the spinal cord. When the nerve cells and tracts that carry these messages are injured, the result is an impairment that generally affects the parts of your body below the injury. For this reason, spinal cord injuries can affect the movement and sensation in almost any part of the body. 

What are the most common causes of spinal cord injuries?

In the United States, there are six most common causes. They are:

  • Road accidents. No matter how you travel, by truck, motorcycle or car, motor vehicle accidents are the biggest cause of spinal cord injury, causing 40% of all new cases every year.
  • Sports. Athletic accidents and other recreational activities can result in spinal cord injuries. About 8% happen while we are at play.
  • Falls. Falling results in many spinal cord injuries. In people over age 65 with this injury, falls are the most likely cause. Nationwide, in all age groups, falls cause over 25% of all spinal cord injuries.
  • Alcohol Use. 25% of these injuries are in some way related to the use of alcohol.
  • Diseases. Cancers, osteoporosis, arthritis and other diseases can cause damage to the spinal cord.
  • Violence. Another 15% of these injuries are the result of violent acts and weapons like guns and knives.

Who is most likely to suffer a spinal cord injury?

Anyone can injure his or her spinal cord, but some are more likely than others. If you:

  • Are a male, you face four times greater risk than females.
  • Are young, between ages 16 and 30, you are more likely to injure your spinal cord. 
  • Do dangerous things like diving into shallow water or playing sports without protection, you could be injured.
  • Have another disorder like arthritis or osteoporosis, you are more likely to suffer a spinal cord injury even if your accident is minor.

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John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer