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Falls overtake car accidents as leading cause of spinal cord injuries

A new study recently released by the prestigious Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine shows that car and truck accidents are no longer the leading cause of spinal cord injuries across the country. The top spot now goes to falls, which account for nearly half of all spinal cord injuries annually.

The study parameters

The study examined medical records for more than 43,000 people treated in hospital emergency rooms for spinal cord injuries of all types between the years 2007 and 2009. The researchers analyzed a wide range of data pulled from the records, including the age of the victim, type of injury (ranging from temporary spinal cord bruising to paralysis or death), treatment protocol, patient survivability rate, length of necessary treatment and approximate cost of medical care. From there, they were able to determine that falls accounted for 41.5 percent of all spinal cord injuries, while motor vehicle accidents came in second at 35.5 percent.

The results

When extrapolated to the entire American population, data from the study shows that, in the three-year study period, the country spent about $1.6 billion on emergency care for spinal cord injuries alone. The already-exorbitant costs associated with serious spinal injuries are growing rapidly, and at a rate much higher than inflation would dictate.

Due to longer life spans, better auto design (leading to a lower fatal accident rate), advances in medicine and other factors, people are living much longer with spinal cord injuries than they have in years past. Unfortunately, that translates into much higher costs; the National Spinal Injury Statistical Research Center estimates that lifetime medical expenses to treat a patient with a serious spinal cord injury can be anywhere from $1 to $5 million. While there is a chance that insurance coverage provided by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act might decrease costs for the injured victims, that remains to be seen.

The study found that the likelihood of fall-related spinal injuries was greatest for people over the age of 65, and that the injury rate for the elderly demographic is increasing rapidly. To researchers, this suggests that increased awareness of the issue of spinal cord injuries in the elderly, as well as preventative efforts aimed at reducing their fall risk, could have a significant impact in the overall rate of spinal cord injuries across the country.

Finding help

If you or a loved one has suffered a spinal cord injury, you already know how costly, painful and life-changing they can be. In fact, sadly, some spinal cord injuries even lead to death. Are you and your family reeling from a serious spinal injury? Do you need more information about holding the person responsible accountable for the damage done? Would you like to learn more about legal options that could help you cover mounting medical bills? If so, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area.