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What do you know about car crashes and spinal cord injury?

Since September is Spinal Cord Injury Awareness month, it seems fitting to learn a little more about this serious issue.

For example, of the many ways a spinal cord injury, or SCI, can occur, you may not know that a motor vehicle crash is the most common cause. It may also surprise you to learn what age group is most affected.

Spinal cord injury explained

The spinal cord is the pathway of nerves responsible for carrying impulses from the brain to the rest of the body. Damage to the protective vertebrae such as the dislocation or fracture of a disc can result in damaging impact to the spinal cord. There are two types of injury: complete, in which the victim will lose all feeling and ability to move below the site of the injury, and incomplete, in which some feeling and movement below the injury site are still possible.

Those affected

You may recall hearing that vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and that young people are involved in a high number of crashes caused by distracted driving. Therefore, since motor vehicle accidents are also the primary cause of spinal cord injury, it stands to reason that young people between the ages of 16 to 30 comprise the largest group of victims, representing almost half of all the 12,500 SCIs that occur annually.

A promising outlook

In the 1970s, the average age of an SCI survivor was 29. Today the average age is 47. This may point to the fact that people today are more active as they approach middle age, but it also means that the care for spinal cord injury patients has improved. Back in the day, the average hospital stay was 24 days. Now the average visit is about 11 days. New emergency treatment provided at the crash site and more effective rehabilitation practices are part of the ongoing effort to help SCI patients recover and improve the quality of their lives.

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