Common Causes and Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injuries

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), there are between 247,000 and 358,000 people in the United States who are suffering from spinal cord injuries. More than 17,500 new spinal cord injuries are estimated to be suffered every year, not including fatalities that occur at the scene of an accident.

Here, our Texas personal injury lawyer lays out the complications, common causes, and treatment options for spinal cord injuries.

Paralysis

Spinal cord damage is one of the worst injuries that a person can suffer. A person's ability to move, work, interact socially, and even attend to their own daily hygiene can be profoundly affected. The spinal cord is a bundle of thousands of nerves that descend about 20 inches from the base of the brain to down near the waist. It carries messages from the brain to the body and from the body to the brain. Many of those messages involve motor control and sensory impulses. If the cord tears from trauma in an accident, it's inevitable that the victim will suffer at least some paralysis.

Multiple Hospital Admissions

As per the NSCIC, less than 1% of all people who have been hospitalized for a spinal cord injury had a complete neurological recovery upon their discharge. During any given year after an initial hospital admission, about 30% of all spinal cord injury victims are hospitalized again, usually for other conditions that arise as a result of the tear.

Partial vs. Complete Tears

A partial spinal cord tear will cause paraplegia which involves partial paralysis and loss of sensation in the legs. A complete tear involves quadriplegia when all four extremities are affected. Although not a tear, a spinal cord bruise could have serious permanent effects too. Bruising can take a few days to a few weeks to heal.

Some Relevant Numbers

According to the NSCIC, about 78% of all new spinal cord injury sufferers are male. Their average age is 43 years old. It's fair to infer that the male percentage is so high because they're more likely to participate in physical risk-taking activities than women. About 60% of the victims are non-Hispanic white, while nearly 22% are non-Hispanic black. The life expectancy of spinal cord injury victims is far below that of people who have never suffered such an injury, especially during the first year if neurological effects are severe. Pneumonia and septicemia are the two primary influences on reduced life expectancy.

Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries

As per the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a spinal cord injury is usually the result of a sudden and forceful trauma to the spine that fractures or dislocates one or more of its bony bodies known as vertebrae. Anything from displaced bone fragments, ligaments or spinal disc debris can bruise, penetrate or tear the spinal cord. Most of the time, the cord isn't completely torn. Instead, nerve cells known as axons that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord and body are damaged. Although some spinal cord injury sufferers will fully recover, the overwhelming majority of them won't.

According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some of the common causes of spinal cord injuries:

  • Motor vehicle and motorcycle crashes. These account for about 50% of all new spinal cord injury cases.
  • Slip-and-falls, trip-and-falls, and falls from heights are the second leading cause of spinal cord injuries, especially with victims over 65 years old. Falls account for about 31% of all spinal cord injuries.
  • Violent encounters like shootings or stabbings account for about 13% of these injuries.
  • Contact sports and recreation injuries like swimming or diving cause about 10% of all spinal cord injuries.

Secondary Symptoms

The thought of partial or full paralysis is frightening to say the least, but there are other secondary symptoms of spinal cord injuries that also contribute to their debilitating effects.

The Mayo Clinic advises that those can include the following:

  • Loss of bladder control that increases the chances of urinary tract or kidney infections
  • Possible loss of control of bowel movements
  • Loss of skin sensation and the inability to feel pressure, heat, or cold
  • Circulatory issues including blood clots
  • Breathing difficulties and the inability to cough due to weak chest and abdominal muscles
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Pain and depression

Treatment of Spinal Cord Injuries

Aggressive emergency room treatment with a specific steroid medication within a few hours after the spinal cord injury might help in reducing damage to the central nervous system. The victim will ordinarily be admitted into an intensive care unit where traction will likely be applied to the injured area of the spine. A decision on whether surgery would be in order will usually be made after that. Some spinal cord injuries might require surgery right away for purposes of reducing pressure on the cord.

If you or a family member suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of the carelessness and negligence of another person or entity, you'll know that the physical and psychological consequences of the injury are enormous. You'll be needing the services of an established and effective law firm with a thorough understanding of spinal cord injuries coupled with the resources necessary to prevail in complicated personal injury litigation. Don't let the lure of a free consultation attract you to the wrong law firm—most lawyers offer them anyway. You'll need experienced and aggressive representation to pursue the costs of a lifetime of care.

To work with a spinal cord injury attorney with 15 years of experience representing accident victims and winning them millions of dollars in compensation, contact Attorney Glen Larson at Glen Larson Law in Austin today.

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