Rising rate of U.S. spinal cord injuries attributed to falls

Wednesday February 12, 2014

Historically, the majority of personal injury claims involving major injuries in the United States, including those in Connecticut, have come from motor-vehicle crashes. These accidents typically cause broken bones, fractures and such serious injuries as spinal cord injuries. A new study, however, is suggesting a new trend, one that affects older Americans in particular.

According to a study from John Hopkins University, falls are now the primary cause of traumatic spinal cord injuries in the United States. Research shows, too, that older people — ages 51 and older — are more susceptible to spinal cord injuries from falls. The symptoms can range from short-term numbness to paralysis.

Researchers examined more than 43,000 adults in hospital emergency rooms who were treated for spinal cord injuries between 2007 and 2009. The overall rate of injuries from falls among patients 18 to 64 decreased from 52.3 per million in 2007 to 49.9 per million in 2009. However, the number of injuries from falls for people 65-years-old and older grew from 79.4 in 2007 to 87.7 in 2009.

During the three-year study period, 41.5 percent of traumatic spinal cord injuries were caused by falls, followed by motor-vehicle accidents at 35.5 percent. In addition, older people with spinal cord injuries are four times more likely to die from such injuries.

Spinal cord injuries have been linked to growing financial strains on the health-care system. Emergency room charges to treat spinal cord injuries grew by $1.6 billion from 2007 to 2009.

Spinal cord injuries create considerable difficulties for patients and their families in terms of emotional, physical and financial health. If such an injury is the result of negligence or carelessness on the part of another individual, then the spinal cord injury victim or the victim’s family can seek compensation that provides some relief from economic losses.

Source: Claims Journal, “Study: Traumatic Spinal Cord Injuries on the Rise in U.S.,” Jan. 30, 2014

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