Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month: 5 Facts About SCI

Did you know September is National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month? Well, now you do! September was designated National SCI Awareness Month by the US Senate in an effort to raise awareness about SCI, the need for better treatments and education on prevention.

As one of the nation’s leading rehab programs for people with spinal cord injuries, Magee is dedicated to furthering progress in SCI treatment and research. And we also understand the importance of education – for those living with spinal cord injuries, their families and all those with an opportunity to prevent such an injury. All month long, we’ll be sharing patient stories and information to help you learn more about SCI and its treatment — including where it’s been and where it’s going.

To start things off, here are 5 facts about SCI you may not know… but definitely should.

1. It’s not as rare as you may think. People tend to think spinal cord injuries are few and far between. Not so. In the US, someone is paralyzed from a spinal cord injury every 48 minutes. Currently, about 273,000 people in the US have SCI, and there are millions more worldwide.

2. Spinal cord injury affects mostly young adults… or it did. While it’s true that nearly half of all spinal cord injuries occurred between the ages of 16 and 30, those numbers are starting to shift. In the 1970s, the average age at injury was 29. Since 2010, the average age at injury is 42. A pretty significant jump. As the population ages and continues to remain active, it’s even more clear that anyone can be affected, regardless of age or life stage.

3. Car crashes are the #1 cause of SCI. This may not come as a surprise. Since 2010, motor vehicle accidents account for 36.5% of reported SCI cases. This includes both drivers and passengers in cars, buses, motorcycles and more.

4. Falls and violence cause more spinal cord injuries than sports. Many people do sustain spinal cord injuries during sports — approximately 9% of reported SCI cases. And while these cases may be more highly publicized, they are not a major cause – in fact, spinal cord injuries due to sports have decreased over time. Violence and falls are much more common causes. Violence, mostly gunshot wounds, is responsible for 14% of all reported SCI cases, and falls are responsible for 28.5%.

5. It is expensive. Really expensive. The average estimated yearly and lifetime costs directly associated with SCI depend on the person’s level of injury — but no matter the level, these additional costs are incredibly high. Someone with paraplegia can expect more than $500,000 in expenses the first year of their injury, and $67,000 every year after that. Someone with low tetraplegia (C5-C8) will have more than $750,000 in expenses the first year and $111,000 every year after that, while someone with high tetraplegia (C1-C4) can expect more than $1 million in expenses their first year and $181,000 every year after that. That doesn’t even include any lost wages.

To learn more about spinal cord injuries and ways you can help people living with SCI in the Philadelphia area, please visit our Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program and Peer Mentor Program sites. There are many great resources online to learn more about spinal cord injuries and advocacy nationwide, including National Spinal Cord Injury Association, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, and many more.

Statistics sourced from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center.

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