Fall-related spinal cord injuries rising, especially among elderly

Car accidents were once the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States, but a recent study by Johns Hopkins University suggests that this may no longer be the case. These days, it seems, falls are more often the culprit when spinal cord injuries strike. What's more, injuries of this type have been on the rise in recent years.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins analyzed the hospital records of a representative sample of more than 43,000 adults who were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for spinal cord injuries during the years 2007 through 2009.

The analysis revealed not only that serious spinal cord injuries are becoming more common, but also that they are affecting older individuals more often than they have in the past. This is a matter of particular concern in West Virginia, where about one in every six people is age 65 or older.

Spinal cord injuries more often fatal for older adults

About 42 percent of all spinal cord injuries in the study were caused by motor vehicle accidents, compared to about 36 percent resulting from falls. Among elderly patients, fall-related spinal cord injuries increased from about 24 percent to 30 percent during the three-year study period. The study also showed that older adults who have suffered spinal cord injuries are substantially more likely to die in the hospital as a result of those injuries than older adults.

Researchers involved in the study said they remain uncertain as to the exact reasons behind the shifting trends in U.S. spinal cord injuries. One possible factor, they said, was that many of today's older individuals are living more active lifestyles than their predecessors, which presumably may put them at greater risk of falls and injuries.

Another possible contributor to the trend is the fact that vehicle safety technology has advanced considerably in recent decades. With modern developments like airbags, seat belts and vehicle crumple zones all working together to keep drivers and passengers safe, car accidents may be less likely to result in spinal cord injuries than they once were.

Financial impact of spinal cord injuries

Whatever the cause, a serious spinal cord injury can be a life-changing event for the injured person and his or her family. Not only can the physical consequences be devastating, but there are also likely to be serious emotional, professional and personal repercussions as well.

Likewise, the financial cost of living with a spinal cord injury can be extremely high, both in terms of medical and rehabilitative costs as well as lost income if the injured person is unable to continue in his or her line of work. Depending on the circumstances of the injury, it is often possible for the injured individual or his or her family to recover monetary compensation to help offset these costs by filing a personal injury claim.

If you are interested in learning more about the legal options that may be available if you or a loved one has suffered a serious spinal cord injury, schedule a consultation with a personal injury law firm in your area.