The most common causes of spinal cord injury is a broken neck or
back neck (causing damage to the bones of the spine that surround
the spinal cord). This often results in damage to the nerves of
the spinal cord inside the spinal column. This is known as ‘traumatic’
injury. Traumatic spinal cord injury may be caused by:
Road traffic accidents, domestic and work-related accidents, sports
injuries, self-harm, assault or complications following surgery
e.g., corrective surgery for spinal deformity e.g. scoliosis.
SCI can also be caused by so-called ‘non-traumatic’ cord injury.
Infection of the spinal nerve cells (bacterial and viral), cysts
or tumours pressing on the spinal cord, interruption of the blood
supply to the spinal cord (causing cord damage), congenital medical
conditions (i.e. present since birth) that affect the structure
of the spinal column e.g., spina bifida.
from these causes of spinal cord injury
Quadriplegia, incomplete 31.2% - Paraplegia, complete 28.2% - Paraplegia,
incomplete 23.1% - Quadriplegia, complete 17.5%
Facts and Figures
causes of spinal cord injury
Traumatic injuries account for the largest percentage of SCIs.
Road traffic accidents account for the largest cause of spinal cord
In the USA violence accounts for the next largest cause of spinal
cord injuries with which result primarily from gunshot wounds. This
category has steadily risen over the last years there while motor
vehicle crashes and sport related injuries have declined.
Falls and sporting activities make up the smallest group of causes
of spinal cord injuries in the USA, However, within the sporting
activity category, diving accidents cause the overwhelming majority
of all spinal cord injuries that are sports related.
the UK 2-3 people every day become paralysed as a result of spinal
cord injury. That is 700+ each year adding to the 40,000 living
here that are already paralysed. The figures for incomplete injuries
may indeed be much higher because they don't take account of those
people who have been treated by general hospitals instead of a specialist
spinal injuries unit. Today advances in medical knowledge
and patient management at the scene of an injury mean a lot more
people will survive an SCI.
Our statistics are very similar to the USA (see chart) Road
traffic accidents are still the biggest cause of traumatic cord
injuries. SCI from gun crime although more prevalent today
than ever is far lower than the American figure.
Since 1988, 45% of all injuries have been complete, 55% incomplete.
Complete injuries result in total loss of sensation and function
below the injury level. Incomplete injuries result in partial loss.
"Complete" does not necessarily mean the cord has been severed.
Each of the above categories can occur in paraplegia and quadriplegia.
Except for the incomplete-Preserved motor (functional), no more
than 0.9% fully recover, although all can improve from the initial
diagnosis. Overall, slightly more than 1/2 of all injuries result
in quadriplegia. However, the proportion of quadriplegics increase
markedly after age 45, comprising 2/3 of all injuries after age
60 and 87% of all injuries after age 75.
92% of all sports injuries result in quadriplegia.
Most people with neurologically complete lesions above C-3 die before
receiving medical treatment. Those who survive are usually dependent
on mechanical respirators to breathe.
50% of all cases have other injuries associated with the spinal
A breakdown of the causes of sporting related spinal cord injuries
worldwide reveals the following:
Diving 66.0% - Rugby & American Football 6.1% - Winter Sports 6.1%
- Surfing 3.1% - Trampoline 2.6% - Wrestling 2.3% - Gymnastics 2.2%
- Horseback Riding 2.0% - Other 9.6%
Complete SCI -
Incomplete SCI -
- Causes of SCI -