That’s a very good question, and one of the first questions that survivors and their loved ones ask. Chances are you don’t know anyone with a spinal cord injury. As you struggle to come to terms with what has happened, you might feel completely alone. You don’t know who to turn to for answers and support. You don’t know anyone who has gone through this, so you don’t know what to expect.
The truth is, you’re not alone.
Spinal cord injuries affect between four and five million Americans per year. As a matter of fact, there are about 300,000 people in the United States living with spinal cord injuries as you read this. Most spinal cord injuries occur between the ages of 16 and 30, and about 79 percent of those who experience spinal cord injuries are male.
About 42 percent of all spinal cord injuries are the result of motor vehicle accidents. Of these, seatbelt failures, power window malfunctions, seat back collapses, suspension defects, and tire tread separations are types of automobile-related malfunctions that can cause or contribute to spinal cord injury. The most common car-related accidents that result in spinal cord injury are rollovers. While these can happen in just about any vehicle, they are most common in SUVs and other vehicles with a narrow wheelbase and a high center of gravity. Inadequate roof strength allows the vehicle roof to collapse during rollovers, and come into contact with the head, neck, and spine of occupants. What’s so distressing about spinal cord injuries that result from rollovers is that they’re avoidable. All manufacturers have to do to make a huge difference is redesign SUV roof pillars and the supports inside them in increase roof strength.
Despite the fact that the implementation of this redesign would cost manufacturers a mere $50 per vehicle, current safety standards don’t require it. As a matter of fact, current safety standards stipulate that the roofs of SUVs don’t have to be designed to support much more than the resting weight of the vehicle itself. While there are several consumer advocacy groups petitioning the government to change the current standards in an effort to cut down on the devastating effects of rollovers, to date, current standards remain fairly lax.
Of course, you don’t have to be in a motor vehicle accident to sustain a spinal cord injury. Other leading causes of spinal cord injury include acts of violence, falls, and sports. About two-thirds of all sports-related spinal cord injuries are a result of diving.
The average age at which spinal cord injuries occur is 33.4 years. The most frequent age of injury is 19. However, for those over the age of 45 who have sustained a spinal cord injury, falls are the leading cause.
But what if you don’t fit into any of the above demographics? When all is said and done, spinal cord injuries can result from a wide variety of causes, and affect people from all walks of life. In addition to men, they affect women, children, and the elderly. Spinal cord injuries don’t discriminate.