Spinal Injuries: Important Things to Know after a Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) can be devastating and life-altering. SCI’s happen when any part of the spinal cord or the nerves that are situated at the end of the spinal canal are damaged. This damage interferes with the ability of the brain to communicate with various parts of the body. The end result is a disruption of sensory and motor functions within the affected areas. We rely heavily on these functions to live a normal life, and this is why even a minor spinal injury can be a scary experience.
Types of Spinal Injuries
There are several symptoms that are characteristic of a spinal cord injury, these include:
- Restricted or lost movement;
- Numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in the fingers, toes, hands, feet, and other areas of the body;
- Problems with balance and coordination;
- Loss of control of the bowels or bladder;
- Problems with breathing or coughing;
- Spasms or other exaggerated reflex activities;
- Full or partial paralysis.
Spinal injuries vary widely in severity, depending on what area of the spinal cord is damaged and other factors. The severity of the injury is commonly referred to as its “completeness”, and there are two general categories that SCI’s can be grouped into:
- Complete SCI: This refers to a complete (or total) loss of motor function and feeling in the areas that are affected.
- Incomplete SCI: This is partial loss of motor function and feeling in the areas affected, with the patient retaining the ability to control some of these movements. The degree of movement the patient retains varies depending time the extent of damage done to the spinal cord.
In the more severe cases, a spinal injury can result in paralysis. SCI-related paralysis can also be grouped into two general categories;
- Tetraplegia: This refers to paralysis from the neck down, affecting the hands, arms, legs, trunk, and pelvic organs. Tetraplegia also goes by the name “quadriplegia”.
- Paraplegia: This refers to paralysis from the waist down, affecting only the legs, trunk, and pelvic organs.
Paralysis can also be complete or partial, with partial paralysis being characterized by some sensation or movement within the affected muscles or muscle groups. The long-term prognosis for SCI-related paralysis depends on a number of factors; such as the severity of the spinal damage that occurred, the quality and timeliness of the treatment, and the individual’s response to the treatment. In some cases, a full recovery is possible; while in other cases, the condition may end up being permanent. In either case, recovery will not happen overnight.
After the initial treatment, you can expect a minimum of several months of rehabilitation time. As with any severe injury, early intervention and the patient’s commitment to following the recommendations of his/her medical team are key factors in making a successful recovery.
Common Causes of Spinal Injuries
According to estimates, approximately 285,000 individuals in United States live with some type of spinal cord injury, and there are about 17,500 new cases each year. Males account for about 81% of new SCI cases, and the average age of a spinal cord injury sufferer is 42.
SCIs typically happen because of some type of traumatic event, such as:
- Auto Accidents: Nearly 40% of all spinal cord injuries result from motor vehicle accidents and other traffic-related events, such as bicycle and pedestrian accidents. These injuries most frequently occur in high-impact crashes in which the blunt force trauma causes damage to the victim’s spinal cord.
- Falls: Slips and falls are the second leading cause of spinal cord injuries, and the leading cause among individuals ages 65 and older.
- Violence: Various acts of violence make up the third-leading cause of SCIs. Examples may include gunshot wounds and assault.
- Sports Accidents: High-impact sports and other dangerous recreational activities make up the fourth leading cause of spinal injuries. Diving accidents are the most common in this category. Other types of sports-related SCIs may include helmet-to-helmet football collisions and skydiving accidents.
- Medical/Surgical Issues: Medical factors are the fifth-leading cause of spinal injuries. This may be a condition such as osteoarthritis or cancer that leads to the onset of the injury, or it could be the result of a surgical error.
The Cost of a Spinal Injury
The lifetime cost of medical treatment for a spinal cord injury can easily exceed seven figures, depending on the age of the victim and the severity of the injury. This is in addition to lost wages for time missed from work, loss of future earning capacity, and the physical and emotional pain and suffering the victim and their loved ones must endure.
When an SCI occurs because of the negligence or reckless actions of another party, victims deserve to be compensated. These types of cases can be highly complex, however, and it can be difficult to obtain full and fair compensation from the responsible party and/or their insurer. For this reason, it is absolutely essential to retain the services of an experience personal injury attorney as early as possible in the process, so you can preserve your legal right to recover full damages.
At Whibbs Stone & Barnett, we have over six decades of combined experience successfully representing clients who have suffered all types of personal injuries in Florida. Our attorneys have extensive knowledge of this area of the law, and we fight hard to help ensure that our clients receive the just compensation they need and deserve. Call our office today at 1-888-219-4561 to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, or send us a message through our online contact form.