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How many people are affected by SCI?

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According to the National SCI Statistical Center, annually there are about 12,000 new cases of SCIs in the United States,1 which amounts to about 40 cases per million people. The last studies of the incidence of SCI were conducted in the 1990s, however, and so it is not known whether incidence has changed in recent years. In 2010, about a quarter of a million people in the United States were living with an SCI.

The majority of SCIs occur in young to middle-aged adults. From 1973 to 1979, the average age at injury was 28.7 years, and most injuries occurred between the ages of 16 and 30. However, demographic changes since the mid-1970s have resulted in an increase of 9 years in the median age of the U.S. population. Similarly, the average age for an SCI has increased over time. From 2005 to 2010, the average age was 40.7.2

Who is at risk for SCI?

SCIs are typically the result of accidents and therefore can happen to anyone.

Factors that increase the risk of SCI:

  • Driving or riding in a car. Using a seatbelt can reduce the possibility of an SCI by 60%; using a seatbelt plus having a functioning airbag can cut the odds of this injury by 80%.3,4
  • Being male. 80% of spinal cord injury patients are male.5
  • Operating machinery without using safety equipment6
  • Improper or unsafe use of a ladder, which can result in a fall from the ladder7
  • Using drugs or alcohol while driving, operating machinery, or playing sports8
  • Having arthritis, osteoporosis, or another bone or joint disorder9

  1. National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. (2011). Spinal cord injury facts and figures at a glance. Retrieved May 22, 2012, from https://www.nscisc.uab.edu/PublicDocuments/nscisc_home/pdf/Facts%202011%20Feb%20Final.pdf External Web Site Policy (PDF - 197 KB) [top]
  2. National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center. (2011). Spinal cord injury facts and figures at a glance. Retrieved May 22, 2012, from https://www.nscisc.uab.edu/PublicDocuments/nscisc_home/pdf/Facts%202011%20Feb%20Final.pdf External Web Site Policy (PDF - 197 KB) [top]
  3. Clayton, B., MacLennan, P. A., McGwinn, G., Jr. Rue, L. W., III, Kirkpatrick, J. S. Cervical spine injury and restraint system use in motor vehicle collisions. Spine 2004 February;29(4):386-389. [top]
  4. Thompson, W. L., Steill, I. G., Clement, C. M., Brison, R. J. (2009). Association of injury mechanism with the risk of cervical spine fractures. Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine, 11(1):14-22. [top]
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Spinal Cord Injury (SCI): Fact Sheet. Retrieved June 21, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/TraumaticBrainInjury/scifacts.html [top]
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Machine safety. Retrieved June 26, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/machine/default.html [top]
  7. Hasler, R. M., Exadaktylos, A. K., Bouamra, O., Benneker, L. M., Clancy, M., Sieber, R. et al. (2011). Epidemiology and predictors of spinal injury in adult major trauma patients: European cohort study. European Spine Journal, 20(12):2174-2180. [top]
  8. Beers, M. H., & Kaplan, J. L. (Eds.). (2006). The Merck manual of diagnosis and therapy. 18th ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. [top]
  9. PubMed Health. (2010). Spinal cord trauma. Retrieved June 26, 2012, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002061 [top]

Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 05/28/2013
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