A spinal cord injury is a medical emergency that requires prompt treatment. A 2013 study by the University of Alabama in Birmingham, Alabama determined that there were over 12,000 new cases of spinal injuries per year, costing Americans over $19 million. There are many different causes of spinal injuries, including:
The main thing to keep in mind is that you should never move a person with a spinal injury yourself, and above all, remind the victim to try not to move. Any movements may aggravate the injury. The victim should only be moved by trained medical personnel.
Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about spinal injuries, as answered by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke:
The spinal cord is part of your central nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord and a complex network of nerves scattered throughout the body. Your spinal cord is responsible for transmitting electric signals (called neurons) between the nerves and the brain.
Spinal cord injuries affect the body to varying degrees, depending on the severity of the injury and the location where the injury has occurred. In most cases, a spinal cord injury only affects the vertebrae – disc-like structures that surround the spinal cord, protecting the spinal cord itself from damage. In most such cases, the victim retains much, if not all sensation, though movement may cause pain for months or sometimes even years after the injury has occurred.
However, a more severe type of spinal injury will cut into the spinal cord itself, causing various degrees of paralysis. Paralysis is when you lose either partial or complete motion and/or sensation in certain parts of your body. There are two main types of paralysis: paraplegia (paralysis from the waist down) and quadriplegia (paralysis from the neck down.) The severity of the paralysis depends on the severity and location of the damage that has been done to the spinal cord. Bowel and bladder control may also be adversely affected, so it’s quite possible for a paralysis victim to experience incontinence (an inability to control excretory functions) to some extent. A severe spinal cord injury is a life-altering event, both for victims and for their families, as daily routines must change in order to properly care for the victim.
While the damage cannot be totally reversed by any means doctors are currently aware of, aggressive therapy, surgery, neuroprosthesis and rehabilitation procedures can minimize the impact of any long-term damage and may even restore limited movement. Immediate treatment is often best, as this will often minimize the impact of any long-term effects.
However, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke are diligently conducting research on new processes they can use to more completely restore motor function and even repair the damaged spinal cord, and the company also provides grants to other organizations for their own research.
If your injury was caused by the negligence of another person or a business, you may be entitled to collect a damage award from the party responsible. The size of this award will of course depend upon the severity of your injuries, and will often simply be enough to cover the costs associated with your medical treatment, pain and suffering and lost wages.