According to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, about 17,810 new spinal cord injuries occur in the United States each year. At any given time, between 250,000 to 368,000 persons in the U.S. live with spinal cord injuries. This means that for every one million individuals fifty-four have a spinal cord injury when compared to the total population.
Spinal Cord Injuries and Paralysis
An injury to the spine can lead to paralysis when there is a loss of nerve function below the point where an individual is injured. The two common types of paralysis are tetraplegia (or quadriplegia), and paraplegia.
An injury to the upper part of the spine may result in loss of function to most or all of the body. When an individual is no longer able to voluntarily move the upper or lower parts of their body, they are said to have tetraplegia, which is often referred to as quadriplegia. According to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, tetraplegia may impair mobility in the fingers, hands, arms, chest, head, and feet, and may or may not include the inability to move the head and neck.
Paraplegia occurs when there is an injury to the lower part of the spine which results in the inability to voluntarily move the lower body and legs. Although paraplegia is often associated with injuries to the nervous system, it may also be caused by a medical condition or disease. Conditions that may cause paraplegia include cerebral palsy, cancer, nerve conditions, multiple sclerosis, stroke, spinal and brain tumors, and a rare genetic condition known as hereditary spastic paraplegia.
Symptoms of Paralysis
An individual experiencing sudden paralysis will be unable to partially or completely move the affected part of the body. A loss of sensation may also be felt at the injury site depending on the location of the injury. Sudden paralysis often occurs because of a stroke or spinal cord injury.
Symptoms of gradual paralysis, experienced by those with specific medical conditions, include a steady loss of muscle function, feeling, or control, muscle cramping, and tingling or numbness. Additional symptoms may include difficulty breathing, bowel or bladder incontinence, chest pain, upper body immobility, and loss of sexual function.
Types of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are medically defined as complete or incomplete. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke classifies a spinal cord injury as a complete injury when there is no nervous system communication along the spine, and all motor function is lost, below the injury site. A spinal cord injury is defined as incomplete when the nervous system is still able to transmit some information along the spine and the injured individual retains some muscle control and sensory function.
Medical professionals further divide spinal cord injuries into two classifications – primary damage and secondary damage. Primary damage is immediate and caused directly by the injury. Secondary damage occurs as a result of swelling and inflammation pressing on the spinal column, changes in cellular activity, or cell death.
The most common cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States is vehicular accidents. The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center estimates that spinal cord injuries resulting from car accidents account for 39.3% of all spinal cord injuries since 2015. The second most common cause of spinal cord injuries is falling (31.8%). Other causes of spinal cord injuries include acts of violence (such as gunshot wounds), sports injuries, medical injuries, and industrial accidents.
Paralysis and Personal Injury Claims
Individuals involved in an accident which resulted in paralysis due to the negligence of another have the right to fair compensation for their injuries. For over thirty years, the personal injury attorneys of Panter, Panter, and Sampedro have helped victims recover their losses, whether as a result of negligence, a defective product, or medical malpractice. Call (305) 662-6178 to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with our experienced spinal cord injury attorneys.