Welcome back to our blog series that is dedicated to spinal cord injury survivors and National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. Last week, we discussed the history of this annual observance and how our firm plans to show our support throughout the month of September! In this post, we are going to examine the central nervous system, the 5 leading causes of spinal cord injuries, and what treatments are currently available for accident survivors.
Why Are Spinal Cord Injuries So Devastating?
The human spinal cord is comprised of 31 pairs of spinal nerves that transmit motor, sensory, and automatic signals – or “messages” – from the central nervous system (brain and spine) to the rest of the body. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH) compares this system to the cables that “connect the different parts of a computer or connect the Internet. When they malfunction, complex functions can grind to a halt.”
An injury to the spinal cord, spinal canal, or the surrounding vertebrae can result in the following neurological injuries:
- Loss of motor function
- Numbness in the extremities
- Pain originating from the spinal cord
- Circulatory problems
- Respiratory complications
- Loss of sensation
- Muscle atrophy
- Weight loss
- Altered sensation
- Depression and anxiety
- Difficulty with balance and walking
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Quadriplegia or paraplegia
5 Common & Preventable Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
A traumatic spinal cord injury often stems from a sudden and violent blow to the spine that fractures, crushes, compresses, or dislocates the vertebrae and damages the inner spinal cord. An accident victim may suffer incomplete or complete paralysis depending on the location and severity of the spinal cord injury.
How does a spinal cord injury occur? Oftentimes, the cause involves acts of negligence and preventable accidents. The 5 common causes of a spinal cord injury are as follows:
- Motor vehicle accidents (38.4%): Automobile accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, one motorist, pedestrian, biker, or cyclist is injured by a negligent driver every 2 minutes and 4 seconds – and that’s just in Texas. Sadly, many survivors sustain catastrophic injuries, including spinal, neck, and brain injuries, that impact their quality of living.
- Slip, trip, and fall accidents (30.5%): Slip and fall accidents are not only the most common premises liability and personal injury claims filed in the United States, they are also the second leading cause of spinal cord injuries. In Texas, a property owner, manager, operator, or lessee has an obligation to provide a reasonably safe environment to any guests, passersby, and tenants. Slipping on ice or water, tripping on cords, falling over a misplaced box – these are all incidents that can result in a debilitating spinal cord injury.
- Acts of intentional violence (13.5%): Physical altercations involving violence can easily result in trauma to the spinal cord. For example, a gunshot or knife wound can sever or compress the spinal cord, leading to irreparable damage that alters a victim’s life forever.
- Sporting accidents (8.9%): Football, soccer, diving, horseback riding – most athletic activities can result in spinal cord damage if a participant slips, falls, or is tackled in the wrong way.
- Medical malpractice incidents (4.7%): Medical errors are a leading cause of disability in the United States. Sadly, the medical industry tends to prioritize revenue goals over patient care, which is why there are more and more medical malpractice claims being filed each year. All it takes is one fatigued, negligent, or inexperienced doctor/surgeon to make a mistake that damages a patient’s peripheral nervous system forever.
What Treatments Are Available for Accident Survivors?
After an accident, a doctor can examine a survivor’s injuries, order emergency neuro and diagnostic tests, and develop a treatment program that mitigates any pain symptoms and side effects. While there is no cure for paralysis, different treatments are available that can improve an individual’s quality of life. Depending on the severity of a victim’s injuries, they may be transferred to a regional spine injury center that employs teams of neurosurgeons, medicine specialists, orthopedic surgeons, psychologists, and therapists who all specialize in spinal cord injuries.
A spinal cord injury survivor may be able to benefit from the following treatment options:
- Immobilization for spinal stabilization and alignment
- Surgery to stabilize the spine
- Physical and occupational therapies
- Experimental treatments that promote nerve regeneration and control inflammation
A spinal cord injury survivor can also utilize the following aids on a day-to-day basis:
- Computer adaptations
- Voice-controlled electronic aids
- Electrical simulation devices
- Robotic gait training
Taking the First Steps to Your New Life
Medical specialists and scientists around the world are inventing and modifying new treatment programs and electronic aids to help spinal cord injury survivors live full and happy lives. We hope that you found this blog informative and invite you to come back next week for our next post: FAQ: What You Need to Know About Spinal Cord Injuries (9/24/19). That said, if you or a loved one has recently sustained spinal cord damage as a result of another person’s negligence, please contact the personal injury attorneys at The Stewart Law Firm, PLLC immediately. As you’ll learn in a future blog, there are many hidden costs associated with a spinal cord injury. Our legal team can help you pursue a settlement or verdict that covers your projected injury-related expenses and prepares you for the next phase of your life.