Number of spinal cord injuries suffered in falls raises concern

As we age, it becomes harder to fight illness and injury. Our bones become more brittle, making a broken leg or a broken hip not only much more likely but also more difficult to repair. This isn’t exactly groundbreaking news for San Francisco residents, but it does make the results of a recent study even more of a concern.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and cases involving spinal cord injuries were the focus. Historically, motor vehicle accidents have been the number one cause of spinal cord injuries across the nation. Data from this recent study showed that falls have surpassed automobile accidents as the leading cause of this type of injury.

According to the data, the overall increase in the number of falls that caused trauma to the spinal cord was due largely in part to an increase amongst the senior population, aged 65 and older. In fact, the number of spinal cord injuries suffered per million by those aged 18 to 64 actually decreased in the same time period from 2007 to 2009.

Not only are seniors suffering falls at a higher rate, but as noted above, recovery is more difficult at this age. In fact, researchers found that seniors are four times more likely to die while receiving emergency treatment for this type of injury at a hospital. For those seniors that make it out of the emergency department, a traumatic spinal cord injury is six times more likely to prove fatal during inpatient care.

Researchers speculate that the increase is in part due to the aging of the baby boomer generation or possibly to a more active elderly population. Safety features available in cars could even contribute to the increase in spinal cord injuries by preventing some of the collisions from becoming fatal accidents.

Source: Insurance Business, “Falls overtake auto wrecks as leading cause of spinal cord injuries,” Feb. 5, 2014

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