How Serious Are Spinal Cord Injuries?
One of the most catastrophic and life-altering injuries a person can suffer is a spinal cord injury. The spinal cord sends messages from the brain to the nervous system throughout the body, controlling many bodily functions. Injuries to the spinal cord can result from direct damage to the tightly bundled nerves which run from the neck down to the lower back or from nearby damage to the vertebrae surrounding the cord when splinters of bone damage the spinal cord or swelling from tissue damage impedes spinal cord function.
Spinal cord injuries are particularly serious because damage to the important nerves causes loss of function, feeling, and movement—paralysis—below the level of the injury. This often results in permanent disability.
Different Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
Our experienced team of spinal cord injury attorneys in Birmingham understand that each spinal cord injury is unique and has varying impacts on the injury victim’s abilities as well as on their chances of making a full or partial recovery. Some damage, such as swollen tissues pressing on the spinal cord may heal and allow complete recovery, while other types of damage are typically permanent. The degree of impairment depends on the level of the spinal cord that’s injured. Most spinal cord injuries fall under one of two classifications:
- An incomplete spinal cord injury means the nerves in the spinal cord are partially damaged and can still send some successful messages from the brain to the limbs and back again, resulting in only partial loss of muscle control below the level of the injury
- A complete spinal cord injury means the damage to the nerves was extensive enough to prevent signals from transmitting back and forth to the brain, causing complete loss of movement and sensation below the level of the injury
Spinal cord injuries are also assessed through primary and secondary damage. Primary damage occurs during the injury and results directly from the injury itself, while secondary damage happens as a result of swelling from the injury which puts additional pressure on the spinal cord. Secondary damage may resolve without further harm or it can cause additional cell death and further harm to the nerves.
Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries most often occur as the result of an accident but may also result from risky behaviors such as diving into shallow water, speeding on a motorcycle, or engaging in rough sports without proper protective gear. The most common causes of spinal cord injuries in the United States include:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Sports injuries, including diving, climbing, and high-impact sports
- Acts of violence, including knife and bullet wounds
- Disease-related injuries
If a third party was responsible for causing your spinal cord injury, seeking legal representation from a skilled Birmingham personal injury attorney can help you recover compensation and hold the negligent party responsible.
The Impacts of Paralysis From Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are often life-changing. Not only do injury victims require physical and occupational therapies, but also assistive medical equipment including wheelchairs, adaptive home devices, and special vehicles. It can severely impede the ability to work and limit career opportunities. One CDC research study found that out of the 5.4 million people in the U.S. living with paralysis, one in four held college degrees yet only one in six were employed. The study also showed negative lifestyle impacts such as obesity and other health-related disparities.
What Are The Long Term Effects of a Spinal Cord Injury?
Medical research continues to focus on new ways to minimize damage to the spinal cord after an accident and ways to better treat injuries to maximize recovery. Scientists also seek a better understanding of nerve tissue regeneration, providing hope for improved treatment options in the future. Hopeful new research also focuses on brain-computer interfaces and a device that can act as a neural prosthesis to supply new connections between the brain and the limbs. Until science develops workable solutions, there are also many new technologies to benefit the quality of life for victims of spinal cord injuries.