Spinal cord injuries are dangerous and can result in paralysis or death. The spinal cord is what connects the brain to the body. Spinal cord injuries usually begin with a blow to the spine, which can happen as a result of automobile accidents, falls, assaults and dives into water. The most damage occurs when pieces of the vertebrae put pressure on nerves, which can cause impairment and immobility. That is why it is so important to keep a victim of spinal cord injury still.
Spinal cords transmit signals that control breathing, movement, bowel movement, sexual feeling, blood pressure and other essential functions. In serious spinal cord injuries, the nerves at the site of injury are so severely damaged that there is no feeling or movement below that point, resulting in paralysis.
Approximately 450,000 people living in the U.S. have spinal cord injuries, and there are about 10,000 new cases every year. The majority of spinal cord injury victims are males between the ages of 16 and 30 years old.
Automobile accidents are one of the primary causes of spinal cord injuries. Millions of people are involved in automobile accidents every year, and thousands of them are injured. Fifty percent of spinal cord injuries each year are caused by automobile accidents.
The next highest cause of spinal cord injuries is violence, or assaults. Gunshot and knife wounds account for the worst, and greatest amount, of injuries to the spinal cord because of violence.
Falls usually occur to older people, although falls from horses, bicycles and while participating in sports such as climbing, bungee jumping and skydiving can also contribute to spinal cord injuries that happen because of falls. Other sports that cause spinal cord injuries include impact sports such as football, rugby and wrestling, as well as speed sports such as speed skating, racecar driving and bobsledding.
The final greatest contributor to spinal cord injuries is disease. Illnesses such as cancer, viral and bacterial infections and arthritis contribute to spinal cord injuries every year.
Spinal cord injuries happen to men more than they happen to women. Other people who are more likely to suffer from spinal cord injuries are those who participate in high elevation, speed or impact sports, and young adults and seniors.
The area of the spine that is damaged determines the areas of the body that are affected. For example, the higher the damage, the greater the extent of paralysis. Spinal cord nerves control breathing, movement, bowel movement, sexual feeling, blood pressure and other essential functions. When a person is paralyzed, he or she loses the ability to control these functions.
Many people with paralysis continue to lead happy lives. Extensive therapy (both physical and mental) and medication is necessary to maintain muscle health and overall health. Mechanical devices have been invented, and continue to be invented, to assist people in their daily activities.
If you or a loved one receives a spinal cord injury, here are some steps to make sure your doctor takes in order to receive the best possible treatment:
- The drug methylprednisolone can reduce improve recovery by 20 percent. It must be administered within 8 hours of when the injury occurred.
- If the spinal cord was compressed, make sure it is decompressed as quickly as possible.
- Ask your doctor to treat for blood clots.
- Make sure your doctor cares for other affected areas, including lungs, heart and bladder.
If you witness or are involved in a spinal cord injury, do not move the victim. Make sure the victim is breathing and has a heartbeat. If not, administer CPR or find someone who can. Call 911. Make sure you tell them the patient needs to go to a Level 1 trauma center. Also, it is very important to contact a personal injury lawyer immediately. Many or all of your medical expenses and other expenses might be covered.