Spinal Cord Injury: Conditions & Common Causes
UPDATED: February 24, 2020
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Spinal cord injury is a life-altering injury to the spinal cord that results in the loss of feeling and mobility. The spinal cord is enclosed in the spine and consists of nerve cells transmitting signals up and down the spinal cord between the brain and the rest of the body. These signals enable us to move and experience physical sensations. A sudden, traumatic blow to the spine may fracture or dislocate vertebrae causing damage to the spinal cord tissue. The spinal cord does not have to be severed to have a loss of functioning.
Types of spinal cord injury
A “complete spinal cord injury” means that there is no voluntary movement or physical sensation below the injury. Both sides of the body are affected equally. An “incomplete spinal cord injury” means that some movement or sensation below the injury is possible. Both sides of the body are not necessarily affected equally. In addition to the loss of sensation and movement, spinal cord injuries will often affect bowel and bladder control, sexual function, cause breathing problems and chronic pain.
In cases where only a small amount of tissue is damaged, complete recovery may be possible. In severe cases, the injury may cause paraplegia, which is the loss of sensation and movement from the waist down, or quadriplegia, which is paralysis of arms and legs approximately from the shoulders down. Both quadriplegics and paraplegics may suffer from either complete or incomplete injuries.
The two most common causes of spinal cord injury are trauma and diseases. Trauma may be caused by slips and falls, diving accidents, gun shot wounds or other disruptions of the spinal cord. Diseases such as polio, spina bifida and tumors may also cause spinal cord injury.
According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Association Resource Center, 11,000 new injuries occur every year. Most cases involve males (82%) and result from motor vehicle accidents (42%), violence (15%) falls (27%), sports (7%) and other causes (8%). Car accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injury, which in severe cases may cause paraplegia or quadriplegia. Because of the potential life-threatening severity of this type of injury, consultation with an attorney that specializes in spinal cord injury who can assess your legal rights and advise you of your options is vitally crucial as soon after the accident as possible. Treatment and cures
Currently, no cure exists, but advances in research show that repairing injured spinal cords will likely become possible in the future, which is being pursued by the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke. Until then, spinal cord injury treatment consists of medication as well as breathing and physical rehabilitation.
If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to seek compensation for your injuries and for any medical expenses that are the direct result of the injuries. A personal injury attorney can give you advice for your particular case.
Be sure to seek out advice as soon after the injury as possible because every state has a law called the state’s statute of limitations that limits the time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit (for example, some states allow 2 years from the date of the injury or from when the injury was or should have been discovered). If you miss the deadline, you will lose your right to sue for the injury. If you would like to have your case reviewed by an experienced spinal cord injury lawyer, simply fill out our case evaluation form, and an attorney will contact you for a no-cost, no obligation evaluation.