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4-12. Spinal injury

   A spinal cord injury is a life-shattering experience for the victim and his or her loved ones. Those that survive a spinal cord injury may never be the same again. Family and friends have to adjust to the necessary changes in lifestyle that inevitably happen after such a devastating injury. Understanding spinal cord injuries can help the victim and his or her family and friends cope with the effects.

What is a spinal cord injury?

   The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves and supportive tissue that extends from base of the brain to just beyond the first lumbar vertebra. It is protected by the bones in the spinal column, but does not extend the entire length, as is commonly assumed. A spinal injury is damage to the nerve fibers as a result of an (either traumatic or chronic) event. A traumatic event, such as an accidental blow or act of violence, crushes, compresses, dislocates or fractures one or more of the vertebrae in the spine, thereby damaging the spinal cord. A chronic (non-traumatic) spinal cord injury is generally from a more long-term condition, such as disc degeneration, arthritis or inflammation.

What causes spinal injury?

   Many spinal cord injuries are from a traumatic event. Motor vehicle accidents, falls and acts of violence are the leading causes for spinal injury in the U.S. The spinal injuries are primarily caused by :

   Falls: 38.3%

   Motor vehicle accidents: 33.6%

   Other accidents: 15%

   Assaults: 5.7%

   Common causes in each region within California may vary based on demographics. Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of spinal injuries for people between 16 and 30 years of age. Spinal cord injuries for those over the age of 65 are most often due to falls; almost 60% of spinal injuries in California occur in victims age 45 and older. The causes and severity of spinal cord injury in Southern California may deviate from the average California and the U.S. based on demographics.


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