Spinal Cord Injuries

In 2005, the estimated number of new cases of spinal cord injuries (SCI) in the US was 11,000. Estimation eventually rose, reaching up to 12,500 new cases each year until 2014. Today, in the US, about 276,000 persons are believed to be spinal cord injured; 82% of the patients are male, while the ages of 56% of those with the injury are 16 and 30.

The spinal cord, which is a bundle of nerve tissues and support cells, is one of the most delicate and sensitive parts of the human body; it forms the central nervous system together with the brain. While the brain may be identified as the body’s command center, the spinal cord acts as a pathway where all messages, from and to the brain, pass to the different parts of the body.

Due to the very important function that it plays in the human body, any serious injury to the spinal cord can result to a devastating effect, namely, paralysis. Depending on the severity of the damage to the spinal cord, paralysis may either be Paraplegia, which is partial paralysis, or Quadriplegia, which means total paralysis. Quadriplegia refers to total loss of bodily functions and control from the area of the injury down to the rest of the body (thus, the higher the area of the injury, the greater the extent of paralysis). In Paraplegia, however, loss of function and control is on one side of the body only; there are cases, though, wherein, despite loss of control, the paralyzed body part remains to have sensation.

Until 1995, vehicular (car and motorcycle) accidents were identified as the most common causes of spinal cord injuries. This was overtaken by violence (knife wounds and gunshot) during the early 2000. In 2014, however, a study conducted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Center for Surgical Trials and Outcomes Research showed that falls have become the new leading causes of the injury, especially in older adults. Though no clear picture explains how falls could have overtaken vehicular accidents in causing SCI, researchers can only assume the strict implementation of the seatbelt law in many states as a major contributory factor plus the more active life of the aging American population.

Other identified causes of SCI, include injuries due to sports and recreational activities, work-related accidents, use of alcohol, and diseases, such as inflammation of the spinal cord, osteoporosis, cancer and arthritis.

On its website, the law firm Pohl & Berk, LLP, points out the life-altering consequences of a spinal cord injury. While this injury can definitely make the life of the victim and his/her family filled with burden (physical, emotional and, especially, financial), it can also evoke the feeling of anger, especially due to the thought that the accident leading to the injury may very well have been prevented had the liable individual only acted with proper care. The firm continues to explain that, though the victim’s life may no longer return to normal, he/she can pursue legal actions, which can help him/her receive the financial compensation that will cover expensive medical treatment and loss of wages or loss of capability to earn wages.

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