Preventing a Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries are most often the result of an unexpected accident that can happen anywhere to anyone. However, certain factors may increase an individual's risk factor of sustaining a spinal cord injury:
  • Gender: Spinal cord injuries disproportionately affect men more than women. Women only account for around 20 percent of all spinal cord injuries per year.
  • Age: Individuals ages 16 to 30 are more likely to suffer a spinal cord injury than any other age group. Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of this type of injury in young adults.
  • Activity in certain sports: certain sports that are high impact such as football, rugby, wrestling, gymnastics, horseback riding, diving, surfing, in-line skating, hockey, skiing and snowboarding can put you at a higher risk for developing a spinal cord injury.
  • Bone or joint disorders: If you have arthritis, osteoporosis or a similar disorder that affects your bones or joints, even a minor injury could lead to the development of a spinal cord injury.

There are also certain precautions individuals can take to help reduce their risk of suffering a spinal cord injury. Things to keep in mind are:

Be a safe driver.
  • Car accidents are one of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries.
  • Wear a seat belt at all times. Children, depending on age, should always be in a child seat or wear a seat belt. Children under the age of 12 should ride in the back seat to avoid injury from air bags.
  • Never drink and drive or drive under the influence of drugs.
Be safe with firearms.
  • Always lock up firearms and ammunition to prevent accidental discharge of weapons.
  • Store guns and ammunition separately.
Prevent falls.
  • Use a step stool to reach objects on tall shelves.
  • Use handrails along stairways.
  • Put non-slip mats in tubs and showers.
  • If you have small children, use safety gates to block stairs and install window guards.
Play sports safely.
  • Always wear helmets and other recommended safety gear.
  • Check water depth before diving to make sure you are not diving into shallow water.
  • Always use a spotter in gymnastics.

If you think you have sustained injury to your spinal cord, seek medical attention immediately. While there is no way to reverse damage to the spinal cord, urgent medical attention can minimize the effects of head and neck trauma so the individual is not further injured. Remaining immobile can stabilize the spine and reduce the risk of further injury. Certain medications given within hours of initial injury can reduce damage to nerve cells and decrease inflammation and pressure at the site of injury.