Facts, Stats & Demographics

General Facts About Spinal Cord Injuries

  • Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) results in sensory and/or motor impairment with varying degrees of permanent disability.
  • There are approximately 7,600 – 10,000 new cases of SCI in the United States each year.
  • Since 1988, 45% of all Spinal Cord Injuries have resulted in complete and 55% have resulted in partial loss of sensation.
  • There are two classifications for SCI. Complete and Incomplete. Complete injury means total nerve loss and incomplete means partial nerve loss.
  • After a spinal cord injury, all nerves above the level of injury keep working like they always have. Below the level of injury, the spinal cord nerves cannot send messages between the brain and parts of the body as they did before the injury.
  • Those with SCI who survive the first year have significantly increased mortality rates relative to the general population.
  • The approximate number of persons in the United States with SCI is between 183,000 and 230,000.

Demographics and Statistics

  • Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of SCI (44%), followed by acts of violence (24%), falls (22%), sports (8%), and other causes (2%). 2/3 of the sports-related injuries are from diving.
  • Falls overtake motor vehicles as the leading cause after age 45.
  • Acts of violence and sports cause less injuries as age increases.
  • Acts of violence have overtaken falls as the second most common source of spinal cord injury.
  • Persons who sustain SCI consist of approximately 56% Caucasian, 29% African-American, 13% Hispanic, 0.4% American-Indian and 2% Asian.
  • 82% of the total number of people with SCI are male; 18% female.
  • The highest per capita rate of injury occurs between ages 16-30.
  • The average age at time of injury is 33.4 years.
  • The median age at time of injury is 26 years.
  • The mode (most frequent) age at time of injury is 19 years.
  • 53% of the total number of people with SCI were single at the time of injury, 31% were married, 9% divorced, 7% other.
  • 5 years after the injury, 88% of single people with SCI were still single vs. 65% of the non-SCI population.
  • 5 years after the injury, 81% of married people with SCI were still married vs. 89% of the non-SCI population.