According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA), there are 250,000 to 400,000 people living with spinal cord injuries in the United States. Amazingly, 11,000 people each year will sustain an injury causing damage to their spinal cord.
The Major Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
Accidents are the most common cause of spinal cord injury. Motor vehicle accidents are at the top of the list, causing 47% of all spinal cord injuries in the U.S. The next main contributors to spinal cord injuries are falls, acts of violence, and recreational activities, and in the San Francisco area those recreational activities mostly involved skiing and surfing. M
The spinal cord is incredibly long, running from the base of the neck all the way down to the waist. It is essentially a bundle of nerves used to transfer information from the brain to the rest of the body. Thirty-three ring shaped bones surround and protect these nerves. Any hard blow to the protective bones, or vertebra, can dislodge one of the rings and cause damage to the nerves inside. The nerves of the spinal cord are in charge for many of the body functions, and unfortunately they do not regenerate once damaged.
The type of damage suffered by the body from a spinal cord injury depends upon where the spinal cord was damaged. Spinal cord injuries can result in all sorts of symptoms from total paralysis to a tingling in the limbs.
Spinal Cord Injury and Tetraplegia
Tetraplegia occurs when a severe spinal cord injury takes place near the base of the neck. It causes total and complete paralysis from the neck down, including arms and legs. Paraplegia occurs when the spinal cord is injured below the neck line. It causes paralysis of the lower extremities.
Spinal Cord Injury and Paralysis
Paralysis and strange sensations are not the only problems victims of spinal cord injuries can suffer from. They may be unable to breathe without the help of a ventilator, have an inability to regulate bodily functions like blood pressure and body temperature or loss of sexual function in men.
Effects of Spinal Cord Injuries
A spinal cord injury can be devastating, emotionally, physically and monetarily to the victim as well as their family. The exact location of the injury will make a difference in the extent of your injuries. For example, when injured at the cervical (neck) level, a person will suffer from tetraplegia (quadriplegia). Depending on the level of the neck injured, the patient will lose certain functions. For example, Christopher Reeves (actor who played Superman), was injured at level C-3 (upper neck) after a horseback riding accident. He now has to use a mechanical ventilator to breathe and no function in his body below his head.
Spinal cord injuries can be complete or partial. With a complete injury there is no sensation or feelings below the point of injury and both sides of the body are affected. With a partial spinal cord injury there is some utility and sensation below the point of injury. One side of the body may be more or less affected than the other side or not affected at all.
Treatment Costs of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can be very costly to the victim. Many people who suffer from spinal cord injuries need to have assistance for their injuries ranging from physical rehabilitation to complete in-home care for the remainder of their lives. According to the Spinal Cord Injury Information Network, first year expenses after injury range from $218,504 to $741,425, dependent upon the injury. A 25-year old person who suffers from a spinal cord injury is estimated to have $651,827 up to $2,924,513 lifetime costs on average, dependent on severity of injury.
Damage to the spinal cord is irreversible. All spinal cord injuries require rehabilitation and physical therapy, sometimes for the rest of the injured person’s life. In many cases, the victims are dependent upon a fair trial compensation to survive.
The case of Contreras v. City of Los Angeles, Central District Federal Court, is an example. A man, who was unarmed, was shot by an L.A.P.D. officer. Los Angeles was ordered to pay his $5.7 million.