Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injury, or SCI, is damage to the spinal cord. The
spinal cord is protected by the bones of the spine, called vertebrae. Vertebrae
are stacked on top of each other. A tunnel goes through the bones. The spinal
cord and nerves go from the brain to the tailbone in this tunnel. Nerves branch
off from the spinal cord between each of the bones of the spine. Spinal cord
trauma occurs when that protection is damaged.
spinal cord is the part of the nervous system that runs down from the brain
through a canal in the spine. It sends signals between the peripheral nerves in
the body and the brain. Signals from sensations such as pain are sent up the
peripheral nerves from organs such as the skin. Commands to move the body are
known as motor impulses. These impulses begin in the brain and travel down the
spinal cord. They then travel through the peripheral nerves into tissues, such
as muscle, to produce movement.
What are the causes and risks of the injury?
Spinal cord trauma can be caused by:
fractures to the vertebrae
injuries that cause the vertebrae to move out of alignment
penetrating injuries such as stabbing or gunshot
severe stretching of the spine
Each year in the United States, there are about 10,000 spinal cord injuries
that people survive. Of these injuries, half result in paraplegia and half in
quadriplegia. The causes of these injuries are:
motor vehicle accidents (44%)
acts of violence (24%)
other reasons (2%)
Of those injured each year, 82% are male. The most common age at the time of
injury is 19 years old. Sports produce a special set of risk statistics. Diving
accidents cause 2/3 of spinal injuries during sports. Ninety-two percent of
sports injuries result in quadriplegia. Alcohol in the bloodstream worsens spinal cord injuries.
This is because bleeding can cause the alcohol to come into contact with spinal