For years, the number one contributor of spinal cord injuries in the U.S. has been car accidents. But according to data recently released by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, most serious traumatic spinal cord injuries are now caused by falls.
What’s more, researchers have discovered that the rates of injury—from temporary numbness to total paralysis—are rising significantly among people over the age of 65, and older adults with spinal cord damage are four times more likely than younger adults to die in the emergency room from such an injury.
For the study, doctors and analysts evaluated 43,137 adults who were treated in hospital emergency rooms for spinal cord injury in the United States between 2007 and 2009. While the number of incidences among those aged 18 to 64 ranged from 52.3 per million to 49.9 per million during the test period, the incident rate for patients 65 and older was much higher—79.4 per million in 2007, and 87.7 in 2009.
Over the three-year analysis, slip and falls were the leading cause of traumatic spinal cord injury (41.5%), followed by auto accidents (35.5%).
Although researchers were unable to uncover the exact reason why falls have surpassed car accidents as the major cause of spinal cord injuries, they hypothesize that there are a number of factors to blame, such as:
- General aging of the population as the “Baby Boomers” reach retirement age
- More active lifestyles of Americans over 65
- Airbags, seat belts, and other safety features that reduce risk of serious injuries in motor vehicle crashes
The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center says that the lifetime recovery and care costs for someone who suffers a major spinal injury can range anywhere from $1 million to $5 million, depending on the age of the victim and severity of injury. And advances in rehab care are now allowing injured patients to live longer—which means bigger medical bills.
Where to go from here?
The doctors and researchers behind the study suggest that if we took more preventative steps to ensure that our elderly don’t fall, then the number of spinal cord injuries would go down.
“We have demonstrated how costly traumatic spinal cord injury is and how lethal and disabling it can be among older people,” says Shalini Selvarajah, M.D., M.P.H., a postdoctoral surgical research fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study published online in the Journal of Neurotrauma. “It’s an area that is ripe for prevention.”
Not all spinal cord injuries are caused by preventable accidents, but for those that are, victims must find a legal representative who is experienced in these types of complicated cases in order to obtain deserved compensation for expensive medical bills.
Colorado spinal cord attorneys at The Babcock Law Firm have in-depth, technical knowledge of injuries associated with the spinal cord, and the long-term cost of recovery. We invite you to discuss your case with one of our skilled lawyers by scheduling your free consultation today.