A spinal cord injury is one of the most dangerous injuries that can be sustained by a person. Depending upon the location and completeness of the injury, spinal cord damage can lead to paralysis and may even be life-threatening. Injuries to the spinal cord in the cervical spine are the most severe and may cause complete tetraplegia. Prevention of a serious spine injury is the best way to protect the spinal cord from being damaged.
The Mayo Clinic reports that spinal cord injuries occur more frequently in people ages 18-35, typically as a result of motor vehicle accidents. The second highest age group in which spinal cord injuries occur is the elderly. The elderly are at a higher risk for falls, which could lead to damage of the spine and spinal cord.
In many cases, there is nothing that the injured person could have done to prevent the injury. It was simply a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And while there is no way to ever 100 percent guarantee your own safety or that of the one you love; there are measures that you can take to increase safety and decrease your chances of sustaining an injury to the spinal cord.
General Prevention for Spinal Cord Injuries
- Always wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a motor vehicle. This is very important for children. Make sure to properly install child safety restraints in the vehicle.
- Never drive a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or ride with anyone who has.
- Avoid distractions while driving and pay close attention to the road. Texting and phone calls can wait.
- Keep a clean home. Slips and falls happen frequently in the home. It is important to keep the floor clear of hazards that could lead to a fall. This is especially important for the elderly as a fall can be more devastating for them. Installing handrails on staircases may also help to improve the safety of your home.
- Never move someone who has a suspected spinal cord injury. Let emergency professionals evaluate the injured person. Moving someone with a spinal cord injury could further damage the spinal cord.
- Always wear a helmet and all suggested safety equipment. Safety equipment issued to sports players is an important factor in preventing injuries, including spinal cord injuries. It is important to replace worn or damaged protective equipment.
- Obey all traffic signs while riding a bike and do not wear headphones.
- Always check out the area where skateboarding takes place. Make sure the area is clear of any debris that could cause a fall.
- Learn all of the rules of contact sports. Following the rules may prevent injury, especially to the spinal cord.
- Avoid extreme sports. Extreme sports such as bungee jumping, sky-diving, and base-jumping are very dangerous. Accidents which do not prove fatal may cause life long spinal cord damage. If you do choose to partake in these activities, understand that you are assuming the risk of your injury.
- Horseback riding is a dangerous activity even when done by a trained rider. Use caution when riding a horse. Get information about the horse you are riding so that you may prepare yourself for the type of ride you are in for and always wear a helmet.
- Supervise small children at all times. Children like to climb. A fall from even a few feet in the air can cause a spinal cord injury.
- Inspect playground equipment. Make sure it is intact before letting children play.
- Trampolines are fun but can lead to serious injury. Make sure to always supervise children while jumping to ensure that they are jumping safely.
- While diving into a swimming pool, always make sure there is enough water so that you do not hit the bottom of the pool. It is a good rule of thumb to not dive into water less than 10-12 feet deep.
- Never push anyone into a swimming pool. This could lead to a serious injury including spinal cord damage.
- Keep the area surrounding a swimming pool clear of hazards and keep it well lit.
Preventing spinal cord injuries is sometimes impossible, however, there are some general safety practices, which may make them less likely. We do not need to live in constant fear of injury to prevent spinal cord injuries, rather just be aware of what may cause them. You just may end up saving a life.