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Basic Facts About Spinal Cord Injuries

Many people in California are among the approximately 10,000 people in the United States who sustain spinal cord injuries every year. A SCI causes damage to the spinal cord, commonly resulting in paralysis to the body’s muscles and nerves. SCI victims lose at least a part of mobility or sensitivity function below the level of injury.

Most SCI’s are a result of trauma, such as car accidents (36 percent) and falls (21.2 percent). SCI’s are categorized as either complete or incomplete injuries. Complete injuries result in no sensation or voluntary movement below the specific level of injury. Incomplete injuries involve the presence of some function below the specific level of injury.

Neck, or cervical, injuries typically result in quadriplegia. Quadriplegia is paralysis that affects all four limbs of the body, typically from the neck or chest down. Depending on the level of injury, quadriplegics may lose involuntary functions such as breathing or sweating, as well as reduced voluntary function in the arms, wrists, hands and fingers.

Injuries at the thoracic, lumbar or sacral levels result in paraplegia, which typically includes full arm and hand function but varying degrees of functional loss to the trunk, abdominals or legs. Both quadriplegics and paraplegics experience bowel, bladder and sexual dysfunction.

Around 450,000 people in the United States live with SCI. About 82 percent of all SCI’s occur in males between 16 and 30 years old. SCI victims face lengthy rehabilitation periods as well as a lifetime of ongoing medical care and medical equipment needs. Remedies for those who sustain a SCI due to the negligence of others may include recovery of medical costs, coverage of future medical care or medical equipment, pain and suffering or lost wages.