The trauma of spinal cord injuries

The trauma of spinal cord injuries

Around 15,000 Australians suffer from a spinal cord injury with around 350-400 new cases recorded each year, of which 84 per cent of sufferers are m­ale and 16 per cent female, according to the Australian Spinal Cord Injury Registry.

Around 20 per cent of reported spinal cord injuries are not traumatic and relate to medical conditions such as vascular disorders, degenerative spinal conditions, genetic disorders and cancerous lesions1.

The overwhelming majority of reported spinal cord injuries are due to traumatic injury such as road accidents and falls.

The table below sets out the causes of traumatic spinal injuries.
Source: Norton L, Spinal Cord Injury, Australia 2007-08, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Injury Research and Statistics Series Number 52. Canberra; 2010
 
A damaged spinal cord can profoundly impact a person’s life because it cannot be repaired2.

The spine is one of the most important parts of the body, providing structure and support. It is central to the skeletal system, supporting the head and enclosing the spinal cord which runs down a canal in the spine.

A spinal cord injury occurs if pressure is applied to the spinal cord and/or the blood and oxygen supply to the cord is disrupted.  

There are two main types of spinal cord injury; quadriplegia (or tetraplegia) and paraplegia.

Quadriplegia is a neck injury that results in the partial or complete paralysis of the upper and lower portion of the body including legs, trunk, arms and hands. Paraplegia is a back injury that results in the partial or complete paralysis of the lower portion of the body including the legs and, in many cases, the trunk.3

But a spinal cord injury does not only result in the loss of limb function and sensation. Other parts of the body can be affected such as the airways, bladder, bowel, bones and skin.

The lifetime cost of quadriplegia and paraplegia is estimated to be around $9.5 million and $5 million respectively, of which the victim bears roughly 40 per cent of the cost. The total cost of spinal cord injury in Australia is estimated to be $2 billion annually4

It’s critical, therefore, for people to have appropriate risk insurance, in particular TPD and income protection insurance, to protect themselves and their families from the long-term financial consequences of spinal cord injuries and paralysis.


Jeff Scott is Head of Product at ClearView.
 
 
  1. Norton L, Spinal Cord Injury, Australia 2007-08, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Injury Research and Statistics Series Number 52. Canberra; 2010
  2. Spine Life Australia - https://www.spinal.com.au/resources/spine/
  3. Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week -  https://www.sciaw.com.au/facts/; Norton L, Spinal Cord Injury, Australia 2007-08, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Injury Research and Statistics Series Number 52. Canberra; 2010; Princess Alexandra Hospital’s Spinal Injuries Unit 2012.
  4. Access Economics.  The economic cost of spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury in Australia. June 2009.