The spinal cord is one of the most complex and important elements of the human anatomy and damage to the spine can have life-changing consequences. Available statistics related to spinal cord injuries suggest that the most common causes cover a wide range of different traumas and incidents. However, more often than not, they are preventable.
According to available research data, below are the 10 most common causes of spinal cord injury in the United States of America.
According to the statistics, men are much more likely to suffer a spinal cord injury (SCI) than women. In fact, nearly 90% of all SCIs caused by sporting events involve men. Person to person contact can involve anything from a collision in a sport such as American football or rugby to violent altercations between two or more people.
You might well expect bicycle accidents to figure prominently on a list of the most common spinal injury causes. Serious injury can occur when a bike collides with a vehicle or another object on the road. Mountain biking may be an activity free from the dangers of vehicles on the road, but unsteady terrain brings its own risks.
Pedestrian injuries can be caused as a result of irresponsible, dangerous or distracted drivers colliding with individuals close to a road. However, it’s not always the motorists fault. Pedestrians themselves can also be distracted, by their mobile phone for example, which puts them at a higher risk of accident when roadside.
Not all spinal cord injury causes are accidents. Medical and surgical negligence also play their role in a fairly significant number of cases. In America alone, 400,000 people a year die from medical mistakes. Surgical complications, such as infections, can also lead to spinal cord injuries.
Thankfully, most of us won’t come across dangerous falling objects but those who work in areas like construction are certainly more at risk. Research by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Centre found that more than 822 men in the US suffered from an injury as a direct result of a falling object in 2014 (equating to about 3.6% of total cases).
Similar to bicycle accidents but at a much higher speed, spinal injuries caused by motorcycle crashes point to the vulnerability of riders. The most common area injured is the thoracic spine, which means that riders are at greater risk of full paralysis compared to many other types of accidents.
Diving into water can put enormous pressure on the neck and upper part of the spinal cord, especially if the individual is not using the right technique. There are also increasing instances of young people diving into water that is too shallow, because of over-exuberance.
The incidence of spinal cord injuries following gunshot injuries is far higher in countries like the United States of American than in the UK or many European countries where gun ownership is more carefully controlled. Even a slight graze from a bullet can have a huge effect if it impacts on the spinal cord.
In the United States in 2014 alone, over 4,000 spinal cord injuries were caused by gunshot wounds.
Anyone can have a fall and you don’t have to be old and unsteady on your feet either. Whether it’s tripping down the stairs or slipping on an icy road, falls account for just over 20% of all spinal cord injuries. In the fast-paced, modern society, people are not always fully focused on the steps they are making, so naturally, accidents and falls will occur. Paying more attention could, of course, help reduce the risk for this type of injury but sometimes accidents can be unavoidable.
Vehicle/road traffic accidents are the most common cause of spinal cord injury in the United States. They accounted for 42.2% of SCIs in the USA in 2017. While the severity of the crash can be a big factor, simple acts such as observing the correct speed, not driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or when tired can help prevent an accident occurring in the first place. Wearing a seatbelt can also help to reduce the likelihood of a severe injury being sustained, if an accident on the road does happen.
The causes of spinal cord injuries are wide and varied and understanding more about the risks and the fragility of this part of the body may just ensure your safety in the future. Some accidents and incidents are unavoidable, but often there are things we can all do to help reduce the risk of such danger in our day-to-day lives.