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5 surprising facts about spinal cord injuries

Spinal cord injuries are among the most devastating. They have a big impact on all areas of life, from victims' physical and emotional well-being to their career goals and financial outlook to their day-to-day mobility and quality of life.

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, these injuries tend to affect people in the prime of their lives. The average age of all victims at the time of injury is 29. The most common cause of these injuries, not surprisingly, is motor vehicle accidents.

Below are some other lesser-known facts about spinal cord injuries:

  1. Nearly half (45 percent) involve incomplete tetraplegia/quadriplegia. This occurs when the victim's arms and legs are paralyzed, yet because the spinal cord hasn't been completely severed, some degree of sensation and motor function may remain.
  2. Nearly one-third (30 percent) of victims are re-hospitalized within a year after the initial injury, often due to infections, respiratory problems and genitourinary difficulties. On average, this subsequent hospitalization lasts more than three weeks.
  3. The vast majority of victims are employed (or in school) at the time of their injury. However, one year later, less than 13 percent are employed. Ten years later, only about a quarter are employed.
  4. The average cost of a spinal cord injury in the first year alone (including both direct and indirect expenses) is $750,000. Every year thereafter, the average ongoing cost is more than $170,000. Of course, the more severe the injury, the higher the cost.
  5. The life expectancy for spinal cord injury victims is significantly reduced. Overall, their total lifespan averages only 64.3 years, with more severe injuries resulting in shorter remaining lifespans (compared to an overall average of 81.2 years for the general population). Pneumonia and septicemia are the most common deadly complications for victims.

As you can see, spinal cord injuries take a huge toll on the lives of victims and their loved ones. These tragic injuries have major effects both now and over the long run.

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