Spinal cord injuries are a serious matter that can cause lifelong complications. Unfortunately, many people in the United States are affected by these injuries. It is estimated that around 291,000 people currently live with a spinal cord injury, a staggering number by any measure. These injuries can stem from a wide variety of accidents, from falls to car crashes.
Despite advances in medical technology, these types of injuries are still life-altering and can leave lasting effects. Keep reading to learn more about the types of spinal cord injuries people can experience.
What Is a Spinal Cord Injury?
The spinal cord is a vital part of the nervous system, responsible for transmitting messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Protected by layers of tissue called meninges and surrounded by a column of vertebrae, the spinal cord is crucial to our ability to move, feel and function normally.
Symptoms of spinal cord injuries include:
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of feeling in certain areas of the body
- Muscle spasticity
- Breathing problems
- Loss of bowel and bladder function
Unfortunately, traumatic blows to the vertebrae can cause fractures, which result in damage to the spinal cord and its nerves. In the worst cases, the spinal cord can be completely severed, leading to permanent paralysis or even death. Despite the challenges faced by those with spinal cord injuries, there is hope for recovery and adaptation.
Classifications of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are split into the two following categories:
- Complete: This type of injury causes paralysis below the level of the injury. Complete injuries can cause all four limbs to be paralyzed (quadriplegia) or the lower half of the body (paraplegia).
- Incomplete: Unlike complete spinal cord injuries, incomplete injuries are where some function remains on one or both sides of the body.
Levels of Spinal Cord Injuries
The complexity of spinal cord injuries goes beyond just their classification. The level of the injury also plays a crucial role in determining its effects on a patient's life. There are four main sections of the spinal cord: the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral.
Each section houses a different set of nerves critical to the body's functions. Thus, when one of these sections is damaged, the injury will affect different parts of the body and cause varying degrees of damage.
Levels of spinal cord injuries include:
- Cervical: This level of spinal cord injury affects the head and neck region of the body. This is the most severe spinal cord injury.
- Thoracic: Thoracic injuries affect the upper chest, mid-back, and adnominal muscles of the body. With this injury, arm and hand function is usually normal.
- Lumbar: This type of injury affects the hips and legs. Those who have this level of injury may need a wheelchair or braces for walking.
- Sacral: Sacral spinal cord injuries affect the hips, back of the thigh, pelvic organs, and buttocks. Usually, those with this injury can walk.
What Causes Spinal Cord Injuries?
Spinal cord injuries can be caused by a number of different things, and some factors can even increase the likelihood of sustaining such an injury. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common causes of spinal cord injuries include:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Sports injuries
- Violent acts
There are also predisposing factors that can make someone more vulnerable to spinal cord injuries.
Predisposing factors include:
- Being male: Females account for about 20% of spinal cord injuries in the U.S.
- Ages between 16-30: Over 50% of spinal cord injuries occur in individuals in this age range.
- Alcohol usage: Alcohol use is involved in around 25% of spinal cord injuries.
- Risky behavior: Engaging in risky behavior in day-to-day life is a risk factor. For example, vehicle accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries for people under 65.
No matter what the cause or contributing factors may be, though, spinal cord injuries can be incredibly debilitating and life-altering. It's important to take precautions to avoid these types of injuries whenever possible, and to seek proper medical care and support if you or someone you know has been affected by a spinal cord injury.
Get Legal Representation
A spinal cord injury can be life-changing and devastating, not only for the victim but also for their loved ones. If you or someone you care for has suffered such an injury due to someone's negligence, May, Rammell & Wells can be here to provide support and guidance.
Our experienced spinal cord injury lawyers are dedicated to holding the negligent party accountable for their actions and pursuing the compensation you are entitled to.
Let us help you navigate this difficult situation. Call (208) 623-8021 or fill out our form online.