Falls now the leading cause of spinal cord injury in adults

According to a recent Johns Hopkins report, slips and falls have edged out auto accidents as the leading cause of spinal cord injuries. This is especially true for the elderly demographic, where the injury rate is increasing fastest. A spinal cord injury can result in full paralysis or temporary numbness, depending on the severity of the injury.

The study analyzed a sample of 43,137 adults who were treated for spinal cord trauma from 2007 to 2009 in emergency rooms. For the age range of 18 to 64, there were 52.3 spinal cord injuries per million in 2007 and 49.9 per million in 2009. This number rose significantly, however, for those 65 or older. In that age bracket, 79.4 incidence per million was reported in 2007, and 2009 showed 87.7 per million.

Falls accounted for 41.5 percent of traumatic spinal cord injuries over the study’s three-year period, while car crashes were responsible for 35.5 percent. The number of injuries caused by falls also increased from 2007 to 2009, at 23.6 percent to 30 percent, respectively.

This study shows that the average age of those who suffer a traumatic spinal cord injury is higher than previously noted. A previous study had the average age at 41, but the recent study showed an average of 51 years old. Older adults are also more likely to succumb to their injuries than their younger adult counterparts.

Researchers say that one possible reason for falls being the new leading cause is that older adults are leading more active lifestyles, meaning the chance of falling is increasing as well. Better safety features in vehicles may also be responsible for the lower rate of injuries caused by car crashes.

The lifetime costs incurred in the care of someone who has suffered a serious spinal cord injury can range from $1 million to $5 million, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. If the injury is deemed to be caused by the negligence of another party, a personal injury case may be able to recover some of those costs.

Source: Property Casualty 360, “Falls surpass auto crashes as leading cause of traumatic spinal cord injuries” Christina Bramlet, Mar. 01, 2014