Hope through Rehabilitation & Research
Posted on Monday, July 1st, 2013
Spinal cord injuries are a medical emergency. They can be happen in a split second and forever change the course of someone’s life. The most common cause of spinal cord damage is trauma. It can occur from falls, gunshot wounds, motor vehicle accidents, on-the-job accidents and sports injuries. Diving in shallow water is one of the most common sports injuries that can damage the spinal cord.
Direct injury, such as cuts, can occur to the spinal cord from broken vertebrae or foreign fragments entering the spinal cord or surrounding area. Direct damage can also occur if the spinal cord is pulled, pressed sideways or compressed. This may occur if the head, neck or back are pushed back or twisted abnormally during an accident. Bleeding, fluid buildup and swelling can also occur inside or outside the spinal cord. The swelling and buildup of blood or fluid can press on the spinal cord and also damage it.
Spinal cord injury happens to all age groups. Data from the 1970’s showed young men from 16 to 30 years old had the highest incidence of traumatic spinal cord injury. The latest data from 2005 shows that the average age at injury is 41 years old. An increase in trauma to middle-aged as well as to the senior age groups accounts for this dramatic rise in the average age of injury.
Today, however, with proper medical treatment and rehabilitation, people are living long and productive lives after sustaining a spinal cord injury.
If you are with someone that you think may have sustained a spinal cord injury, there are several things you should know. Symptoms vary depending on the location of the injury, but they usually display as weakness or loss of feeling at or below the injury site. How severe these symptoms are depends on whether the entire cord is severely injured (complete) or only partially injured (incomplete).
Although the number of spinal cord injuries each year in the United States has remained about the same over the past several decades, what has changed is the survival rate. Immediate medical attention and proper rehabilitation after injury are the two best ways to ensure the best possible recovery.
— Argyrios Stampas, M.D.
Director, Spinal Cord Injury Program
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PLEASE NOTE: Burke's Rehab Insights blog is intended to provide general information about rehabilitation topics. It should not take the place of medical care. Burke physicians cannot answer questions about individual medical cases.