While we all hope to live a long and injury-free life, accidents can and do happen, often resulting in life-changing injuries and complications.
Unfortunately, Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) are depressingly common and are one of the most frequent causes of disability and even death among children and adults – but just what is an SCI and what are the most common causes? Read on for a brief overview.
Spinal cord injury – a basic definition
The human spine consists of multiple bones – also called vertebrae. The spinal cord is a collection of nerves that runs through the center of these bones in a canal, carrying vital messages between the brain and the rest of the body. These messages allow for sensations like our sense of touch as well as allowing the brain to control the movement of our limbs.
In an SCI, these nerves become bruised, or partly or completely torn – normally through a traumatic injury. When this occurs, the connection between the brain and the rest of the body can become impaired (or lost completely), in the worst case resulting in death or:
Paraplegia – losing the function of the lower body or legs.
Quadriplegia – losing the function of the upper body, arms and legs.
Treatment of an SCI
An SCI requires immediate specialist medical treatment at the scene of the accident, including immobilizing the head and neck to avoid further damage. At present, there is no way to fix a damaged spinal cord, however, extensive stem cell research is providing much improved treatments such as advanced stem cell therapy that can significantly reduce patient pain and slow ongoing degeneration. Companies like BioXcellerator are already administering these treatments to patients to improve their quality of life and mitigate continued complications.
The most common causes of an SCI
In an SCI, the back or neck becomes twisted or compressed, resulting in tears or bruising in the spinal cord. Any traumatic accident could result in a Spinal Cord Injury, however, some incidents happen more frequently than others. On studying evidence from previous SCI injuries, the most common causes are:
Falls: Even the most seemingly innocuous fall could result in an SCI – anything from a simple household accident to more major falls.
Accidents involving motor vehicles: The impact caused by car and motorcycle accidents often results in traumatic injury to the spine – whether as a driver, passenger or pedestrian.
Sports injuries: The level of risk involved in sports varies from activity to activity. High-impact sports like football carry an increased risk, however, as mentioned above, even a bad fall could result in an SCI.
Trampoline accidents: Falling on the outside structure of trampolines (or even bouncing off altogether) are the most common cause of SCIs, but also twisted falls can result in complications.
Violent attacks: Stabbing or gunshot wounds can cause SCIs.
Diving accidents: Misjudging the depth of water when diving is a very common cause of SCIs.
SCIs through infection: Often apparently unrelated diseases can result in abscesses in the spinal cord.
Problems at birth: The birthing process can sometime cause a twisting of the neck, resulting in SCIs