Spinal cord injuries affect thousands of people in the United States. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, every year there are over 17,000 new SCI cases in the U.S.
Because SCI do not heal, this means that many more people are still living with the effects of previous spinal cord injuries. A conservative estimate puts the number of people currently living with SCI in the United States at 250,000.
Effects of SCI
Damage to the spinal cord can disrupt neural messages between the brain and the muscles of the body. This can cause paralysis in one or more limbs. The paralysis can be partial, meaning that the patient still has the ability to move some muscles in the affected limb(s), or complete, meaning that the patient has no control over the muscles in the affected limb.
Since 2015, most SCI in the United States have resulted in incomplete tetraplegia, or partial paralysis affecting all four limbs. The next most common form of paralysis is paraplegia, which affects the lower body. The incidences of complete and incomplete paraplegia from SCI are approximately equal.
Causes of SCI
The most common causes of SCI are motor vehicle accidents and falls, respectively. Falls account for nearly one-third of SCI in the United States, while motor vehicle accidents are responsible for nearly 40%. The next most common cause of SCI is gunshot wounds and other forms of physical violence.
On average, people are experiencing SCI later in life. In the 21st century, the average age at injury is 43, while in the 1970s, it was 29.