The Causes of Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries can be devastating. Damage to the spinal cord can result in permanent changes to one’s strength, sensation and function in body parts below the point of injury. The ability to maintain control of limbs after a spinal cord injury depends on the location of the injury and the severity of the damage. The severity of spinal cord injuries can be split up into two categories: complete and incomplete. A complete injury refers to when all sensation and function is lost below the point of injury. In an incomplete injury, there is still some motor or sensory function below the point on the spine where damage occurred.

Spinal cord injuries can be caused by damage to either the vertebrae, discs, or ligaments in the spinal column. The majority of spinal injuries happen suddenly, from traumatic incidents such as a car crash or gunshot. Some spinal injuries, however, are not traumatic and are a result of arthritis, cancer, infections, or inflammation.

According to Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC, the leading cause of spinal cord injuries is automobile accidents, which account for about 35%. In people over the age of 65, the most common cause of spinal cord injury is slip and fall accidents. Another common cause is acts of violence like stabbings or gunshots, which account for about 15% of all spinal cord injuries. Sports and recreational activities cause about 9% of spinal injuries and most often occur in contact sports like football. Another major factor in spinal cord injuries is alcohol. According to Mayo Clinic, alcohol plays in a role about 1 in every 4 injuries to the spine.

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