Spinal Cord Injuries: Facts and Prevention Tips

The spinal cord plays an essential role in the human body, serving as a messenger between your brain and the rest of your body (and vice versa).

It’s no surprise, then, that a spinal cord injury is one of the most dangerous injuries a person can sustain.

Depending on the severity, spinal cord injuries can cause loss of sensation, loss of function, and paralysis.

Spinal cord injuries can also leave you more vulnerable to respiratory or circulatory system problems, which can be fatal.

Facts about spinal cord injuries

  • Spinal cord injuries occur more frequently in people age 18 and older.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of spinal cord injury.
  • Approximately 17,700 new spinal cord injury cases occur in the United States each year.
  • The average age at time of spinal cord injury is 43 years old.
  • Approximately 78% of new spinal cord injury patients are male.
  • Falls are the leading cause of spinal cord injury in people age 45 and older.
  • An estimated 90% of spinal cord injuries are the result of traumatic injuries.

Preventing spinal cord injuries

The best way to reduce your risk of spinal cord injury is to reduce your overall risk of traumatic injury.

General safety tips include:

  • Seatbelt safety: Always wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a motor vehicle – even if you’re just going down the street or around the corner.
  • Avoid distracted driving: Always pay close attention to the road. Avoid texting or making phone calls when driving.
  • Be clutter free: Slip-and-falls are the second-leading cause of spinal cord injury. Keep floors and high-traveled areas clear of all hazards, including cords and loose rugs/flooring.
  • Sports safety: Always wear a helmet and other properly fitted safety equipment when playing sports. Replace worn or damaged equipment to prevent injury.
  • Playground safety: Children should be supervised at all times – a fall, even from a few feet in the air, has the potential to cause serious injury. Inspect playground equipment before letting children play.
  • Child safety seats: Ensure that child safety seats, including car seats and booster seats, are properly installed. Observe all recommended age and weight limits.
  • Recreation safety: Always wear a properly fitted helmet when riding a bike, scooter, ATV, or when skateboarding.

This post was written by the South Shore Health Trauma Program Injury Prevention Team.

Learn more about our Injury Prevention Program.