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Spinal Cord Injury Statistics

statistics-spinal-cord-injury-trauma Spinal cord injuries are incredibly severe, often placing a financial, socioeconomic, and emotional burden on the individual and family members. Were you or a loved one a victim of someone else's negligence resulting in a spinal cord injury?

The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC will fight aggressively on your behalf to ensure your physical and financial recovery. Contact us today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) to schedule a free consultation to discuss your compensation case.

Statistics maintained by the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, nearly 450,000 Americans live with a spinal cord injury (SCI). Doctors diagnose approximately 17,000 new spinal cord injuries every year, mainly caused by traumatic impact to the vertebral column.

The prevalence of spinal cord injuries is heightened by contributing factors including the individual's age (twenty-nine years on average), gender (males represent 81% of new SCI cases), race (22% of all SCI cases involve non-Hispanic blacks), and cause (falling, acts of violence, sports/recreation activities).

What is a Spinal Cord Injury?

The spinal cord communicates messages between the brain and body using a bundle of nerves surrounded by the spine (spinal column). The spine contains the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal vertebrae that forms thirty-one pairs of spinal nerves extending from the spinal column out to the body.

A spinal cord injury is typically the result of trauma to the spinal column that affects sensory, motor, and autonomic function. Moderate to severe spinal cord injuries could result in complete or incomplete paralysis, loss of sensation, and autonomic dysfunction, including temperature regulation dysfunctions and unstable blood pressure.

The typical outcome of a spinal cord injury leaves the individual with a profound, permanent neurological deficit and disability. Based on the injury's severity, spinal column injury can cause muscle paralysis necessary for breathing or a loss of feeling below the injury site.

The spinal cord injury patient might experience primary adverse conditions, including losing voluntary bladder and bowel control. SCIs also cause secondary conditions, including respiratory issues, autonomic dysfunction, and high susceptibility to pressure sores due to paralysis.

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Statistics

About 290,000 individuals in the United States have a spinal cord injury, with approximately 17,700 new injuries occurring every year. Other spinal cord injury facts include:

Nearly 40% of all spinal cord injured patients are classified as paraplegic

Approximately 60% of all spinal cord injured patients are classified as quadriplegic

About 50% of all spinal cord injuries happen between sixteen and thirty years of age

More than 87% of all individuals with spinal cord injuries are discharged from hospitals to receive caregiving services at home.

Less than 7% of all individuals with spinal cord injuries are discharged to nursing homes

Approximately 70% of all new spinal cord injury cases are male.

Only approximately one percent of persons discharged from the hospital for the spinal cord injury experience complete neurological recovery.

Varying levels of spasticity affect approximately 76% of the spinal cord injury population, or they experience contracting or tightening muscles.

The average age of a new spinal cord injury patient rose from twenty-nine years old during the 1970s to 43 years old in 2019.

About 42% of people with quadriplegia/tetraplegia experience bladder and bowel dysfunction and can no longer voluntarily empty their bladder or bowels.

Approximately 2% of all catastrophic vehicle crashes involve traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, and amputation.

Some individuals with quadriplegia/tetraplegia and paraplegia suffer respiratory issues due to a weakening diaphragm functioning.

Sexual function could be impacted by muscle dysfunction, sexual reflex change, or altered sense of touch.

Sexual arousal, orgasm, and fertility vary between people with spinal cord injuries due to the level of completeness of their nerve injury.

Spinal cord injury patients are spending less time receiving hospital acute care than ever before. The length of a hospital stay declined from 24 days in the 1970s to 11 days in 2019.

The length of time a spinal cord injury patient spends in rehabilitation significantly declined from ninety-eight days during the 1970s to 31 days in 2019.

People with spinal cord injuries have a heightened potential risk of developing bedsores (pressure wounds, pressure sores, pressure injuries, pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers) caused by restricted blood flow to the area.

Diagnosing a Spinal Cord Injury

People experiencing a complete spinal cord injury lose their motor and sensory function entirely below the injury level. Statistics show that approximately 50% of all spinal cord injuries are complete, affecting both the left and right sides of the body equally.

Most complete spinal cord injuries are rarely transected (cut through entirely). Typically, the loss of body function results from spinal cord bruising or contusion or when blood flow to the spinal cord from the injury is compromised.

Alternatively, an incomplete spinal cord injury preserves some bodily function below the injury level, where the injured person can still move the leg or arm or experience other functions more on one side than the other.

The American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) provides doctors a spinal cord injury grading scale that identifies the injury's severity. The scale includes:

ASIA A – The scale indicates that the SCI is complete, depriving the injured party of all motor and sensory functions

ASIA B – The scale shows an incomplete sensory injury with a complete loss of motor function

ASIA C – The incomplete motor injury still allows some movement but affects less than half of all muscle groups, preventing upward force against gravity using a full range of motion

ASIA D – The incomplete motor injury affects more than half of the body's muscle groups, preventing upward force against gravity using a full range of motion

ASIA E – Normal body function

Statistics show that severe SCIs are less likely to resolve in a full recovery.

SCI: Leading Risk Factors Injury Facts and Figures

Statistical research shows the leading causes of spinal cord injuries had changed significantly in the last half-decade. In 2019, doctors diagnosed more than 17,700 cases of SCIs, added to the more than 363,000 people that currently live with SCIs in America.

The percentages of all new spinal cord injury cases in the United States in 2019 include:

Spinal Cord Injury Neurological Categories

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons categorizes neurological injury involving spinal injuries. These spinal cord injury facts and categories include:

  • Individuals with incomplete quadriplegia/tetraplegia (47.6%)
  • People with complete paraplegia (19.9%)
  • Individuals with incomplete paraplegia (19.6%)
  • People with complete quadriplegia/tetraplegia (12.3%)

Spinal Cord Injury Hospitalization Statistics

With recent advancements in technological improvements and medical caregiving, spinal cord injury patients stay in the hospital for significantly fewer days than in previous decades. During the 1970s, hospital stays of SCI patients averaged twenty-four days. The current number of hospitals averages eleven days.

Additionally, the length of time and SCI patients receive rehabilitation and therapy to improve their activity level, mobility, and range of motion has declined significantly in recent decades.

During the 1970s, SCI patients were in rehabilitation for approximately ninety-eight days. Currently, SCI patients receive thirty-one days of rehabilitation and therapy. Current spinal cord injury hospitalization statistics and facts include:

Acute Care Unit (ACU) – People with complete quadriplegia/tetraplegia spend approximately 21 days in an ACU.

Rehabilitation Unit – People with complete quadriplegia/tetraplegia have rehabilitation lengths of stay lasting 56 days on average.

Acute Care Unit – People with incomplete quadriplegia/tetraplegia spend approximately ten days in an ACU.

Rehabilitation Unit – People with incomplete quadriplegia/tetraplegia spend 35 days on average receiving rehab and therapy.

Acute Care Unit – People with complete paraplegia spent approximately 13 days and in an ACU.

Rehabilitation Unit – Individuals with complete paraplegia spend 35 days on average receiving rehabilitation.

Acute Care Unit – people with incomplete paraplegia spend approximately ten days in an ACU.

Rehabilitation Unit – People with incomplete paraplegia spend 26 days on average receiving rehab and therapy.

Spinal Cord Injury Survival Rate Statistics

Data reveals that more than 80% of all people with spinal cord injuries surviving the first day are still alive a decade later.

People with spinal cord injuries are five times more likely to die within the first year after the injury occurred compared to the general population.

Spinal cord injury patients are up to five times more likely to suffer a premature death than individuals without SCI.

Where the SCI patient is relocated after hospitalization is a crucial factor to their survival.

The SCI patient's mortality risk increases by the severity and level of their injury and availability to prompt high-quality medical care.

A preventable secondary condition remains the primary cause of death to people with spinal cord injuries, especially those suffering from untreated pressure ulcers and infections.

The Non-Medical Consequences of a Spinal Cord Injury

While many spinal cord injury facts involve the costs of medical care, there are other non-medical consequences of living with an SCI. Data from the Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center reveal that:

Approximately 30% of individuals with spinal injuries have been clinically diagnosed with depression.

Adult spinal cord injury survivors suffer economic barriers and maintain an average 60% unemployment rate.

Young spinal injury patients have lower school enrollment rates and those participating in school are much less like to advance their academic studies.

The cost of providing care to individuals with an SCI is significantly higher than for patients with other conditions, including multiple sclerosis, dementia, and cerebral palsy.

SCI: Cause of Death

An individual with a traumatic spinal injury has a significantly lower life expectancy than those without SCI. However, life expectancies vary by age based on when the injury occurred and its severity.

Statistics maintained by the National Spinal Cord Injury Database since 1973 show that the primary cause of death in patients with SCIs include septicemia (blood infection) and pneumonia. These conditions and other contributing factors show a significantly reduced life expectancy and increased chronic pain for the SCI population.

However, other factors affect the mortality rates in individuals with SCI, including heart disease, cancer, arterial disease, stroke, renal failure, urinary diseases, pulmonary embolus, digestive diseases, urinary diseases, and suicide.

Research shows no significant change in SCI mortality rates for people dying of septicemia over the last four decades. However, there was a slight decrease in mortality rates caused by the number of respiratory disease-related deaths.

Some of these gains and survival rates are offset by other underlying conditions, including nutritional and metabolic diseases, endocrine issues, nervous system diseases, motor vehicle accidents, mental disorders, and musculoskeletal disorders.

Who Pays the Medical Costs for Spinal Cord Injuries?

People with SCIs receive monetary benefits from numerous sources to pay for their medical bills and other expenses. The primary payer of the SCI patient's medical expenses up until the hospital discharge include:

Statistics show that the cost of care for SCI patients changes a decade after the hospital discharge. The primary payer area of SCI patients' medical expenses ten years after the injury include:

  • Private insurance coverage (30.1%)
  • Medicare (37.4%)
  • Medicaid 20.7%)
  • Workers' compensation benefits (6.9%)
  • Self-employment benefits (1.7%)
  • Unknown/other (3.1%)

Where Do Most SCI Patients Go After Their Hospital Discharge?

Statistics show no apparent relationship between being admitted to a nursing facility and the severity of the patient's SCI. Likely, other contributing factors include medical complications or a family unable to care for their loved one.

Data shows that patients are discharged from the hospital to go to various facilities, including:

  • Private residence (87.6%)
  • Nursing Home (6.5%)
  • Another Hospital (1.7%)
  • Group Home (1.1%)
  • Unknown/another facility (3.1%)

Approximately 30% of people with SCIs are re-hospitalized at least once in the first year after the traumatic event requiring hospital admission. On average, re-hospitalization stays on average 19 days, based on their medical condition.

Re-hospitalization is often the result of musculoskeletal disease or circulatory, digestive, or respiratory problems.

SCI Cost Stats

The new cases of SCIs occur to 54 out of every million people in America. However, some studies reveal that this number significantly underreports all cases of SCIs.

The injury was not accurately recorded in some fatal cases if the victim died instantaneously or soon afterward. Other cases that go unreported include those where the patient had little or no remaining neurological deficit or where their neurological issues were secondary to the traumatic event and not classified as an SCI.

Other spinal cord injury statistics include:

The average age of SCI patients is 43 years of age, and the median age at the time of the injury is 35.4 years of age.

Nearly 50% of all spinal injury cases are caused by a negligent driver in a car crash

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that Americans spend nearly $9.7 billion every year providing care and services associated with SCIs.

Private health insurance covers approximately 49.7% of all people with SCIs in the United States.

Government statistics show that the average cost of care for people with paraplegia during their first year from spinal cord injury onset averages $550,000.

Government statistics show that the average cost for people with quadriplegia/tetraplegia with C1C4 injuries during their first year averages $1.12 million.

Statistics reveal that the average cost of caring for people with quadriplegia/tetraplegia with C5-C8 injuries during the first year averages $816,000.

The average lifetime costs of care for people with paraplegia from 25 years old is $2,450,000.

The average lifetime costs of care for people with quadriplegia/tetraplegia at C1-C4 from 25 years old is $5 million.

The average lifetime costs of care for people with quadriplegia/tetraplegia at C5-C8 from 25 years old is $3.6 million.

Approximately 77% of all people with SCIs are unemployed a decade after the injury occurred.

Nearly 66% of all sports-related SCIs are caused by diving at a rate only slightly higher than vehicle crashes.

A spinal injury-related fall is the leading cause of acquired severe injury and death after 45 years of age.

Getting older decreases a potential victim's chances of acquiring an SCI from sports or an act of violence

The relationship status of an SCI patient at the time of the injury includes unmarried (50.7%), married (32.9%), divorced (9.4%), and unknown/other (7%).

Approximately 84% of people report no change in their marital status a decade after their injury

Approximately 58% of all people with SCIs were employed when the traumatic event occurred, and 39% were unemployed while retired, living as a student, or homemaker.

Approximately 26.6% of people with SCIs report that they were employed a decade after the injury occurred.

Data shows that people getting back to work during the first year after the incident typically hold the same position working for the same employer.

Statistics show that people with SCIs going back to work after the first year following the incident typically work for a different company or were students that got a job.

Don't Be a Statistic. Contact an Attorney Today to Handle Your SCI Case

Protect your legal interest by securing the financial compensation and support payments you deserve. You and your family can avoid the financial burden to pay for all of your medical costs, time away from work, and out-of-pocket expenses required to improve your quality of life.

Contact our law firm today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or through the contact form to schedule a free consultation. All information you share with our law office remains confidential through an attorney-client relationship.


Client Reviews
Jonathan Rosenfeld was professionally objective, timely, and knowledgeable. Also, his advice was extremely effective regarding my case. In addition, Jonathan was understanding and patient pertaining to any of my questions or concerns. I was very happy with the end result and I highly recommend Jonathan Rosenfeld. Michonne Proulx
Extremely impressed with this law firm. They took control of a bad motorcycle crash that left my uncle seriously injured. Without any guarantee of a financial recovery, they went out and hired accident investigators and engineers to help prove how the accident happened. I am grateful that they worked on a contingency fee basis as there was no way we could have paid for these services on our own. Ethan Armstrong
This lawyer really helped me get compensation for my motorcycle accident case. I know there is no way that I could have gotten anywhere near the amount that Mr. Rosenfeld was able to get to settle my case. Thank you. Daniel Kaim
Jonathan helped my family heal and get compensation after our child was suffered a life threatening injury at daycare. He was sympathetic and in constant contact with us letting us know all he knew every step of the way. We were so blessed to find Jonathan! Giulia
Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial. Lisa