It’s not too surprising that the forces of something as dramatic as a vehicular accident could cause serious injuries in the spine. In fact, automobile accidents are cited—at least in America—as the #1 cause of spinal cord injuries, or SCI in recent years. However, the #2 cause may be quite surprising. Where one can easily imagine serious back damage and SCI from being caught in a traffic collision that mangles the vehicle and the person inside, a much more common slip, trip or fall isn’t regarded as being quite as deadly.
And yet, incredibly, slips and falls actually are the #2 cause of SCI in America? But how? And why?
The Age Factor
As disturbing as it may be to consider, this #2 threat most commonly happens to older demographics, and it can happen anywhere. As people age, they become more delicate, more vulnerable to damage, less agile, and brittle boned. All of which contributes to a higher risk of injury. The National Center for Biotechnology Information, or NCBI, conducted a study in 2016 that came to the conclusion that 20% of all SCI incidents that occurred through falls happened on “the same level.” This means that there was no great height, like someone falling off a balcony, or traversing a higher point to a lower point. The person was on the same floor when the fall occurred.
However, one interesting aspect of these injuries was age. People at the age of 61 or older, were far more likely to be found as victims of a same level fall that result in SCI. This means that slipping, tripping or stumbling were usually enough to result in some kind of significant SCI.
The Work Hazard
The same study found that while people aged 16-45 could also suffer from SCI, in these cases, the location and type of fall were different. SCI in younger demographics had a greater tendency to occur from falls resulting in a change of height, usually falling off building themselves.
One critical factor this rate of incidence is employment. In the majority of these cases, this type of SCI occurred while on the job, since people between the ages of 16-45 are eligible to work, and many of these injuries occur on job sites, such as construction areas.
How It Happens
Spinal injuries are caused chiefly by the application of more force than the spinal cord can handle. But this occurs in a variety of ways. Impact from a high speed vehicle is an obvious one, and so is a fall from a great height, such as the roof of a building. But even twisting the spinal cord itself can cause this injury, or a fall on the head, if the neck takes the impact in the wrong way are enough to create SCI when the spinal cord is subjected to intolerable forces.
SCI can also occur when the spinal cord is compressed. This means that an injury occurs as a direct result of bone, usually from the spine, actually pressing and “pinching” against the spinal cord in a serious way, usually preventing the normal transmission of neural signals up and down the cord.
A more severe form of SCI occurs from the cord itself being severed to some degree. In this case, the actual connections to transmit nervous impulses are not just blocked, they no longer exist. This can be either incomplete, with some ability to move and sense touch still intact, or it can be complete, with no movement and sensation possible.
SCI is almost invariably serious, but the degree of seriousness can vary. Medical knowledge has been steadily improving with each passing year, and so has the technology of treatment and surgery. We’re now at a place where complete SCI that was once thought permanent and unrecoverable now has a chance to be at least partially negated through better diagnosis and medical treatment. So the final resolution of being paraplegic and trapped in a wheelchair, or tetra/quadriplegic and confined to a bed is no longer as common as it once was.
Despite that, however, there are still permanent consequences, and in some cases, it may simply be impossible to return to a former life and/or line of work. This is why, if you sustain a SCI, it is important to make sure that you find out what legal recourse you have, if the injury was caused by someone else. Don’t bear this burden alone, talk to a St. Pete lawyer to see what should be the next steps you take..