Spinal Cord Injuries Decreasing with Young, Increasing with Older Population
A new study published by an associate professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine has found that the number of spinal cord injuries is decreasing among the younger generation but increasing among older Americans. This type of injury is often catastrophic and can lead to permanent consequences. Spinal cord injuries can result in paralysis, weakened strength, sensation, and other functions.
Results of the Report
The researchers behind the study collected more than 63,000 U.S. patients who had suffered acute traumatic spinal cord injury. The results found that the number of spinal cord injuries increased from 2,700 in 1993 to almost 3,400 in 2012. However, the overall rate of injuries remained roughly the same given the increase in overall U.S. population. Although the overall rate of injuries has stayed about the same, the rates of injury among specific subsets of the population have shifted.
Spinal Cord Injuries
The rate of young males between the ages of 16 and 24 years old suffering from spinal cord injuries went from 144 per million to 87 per million over the last 10 years. In addition, the rate of female spinal cord injuries among the same age group fell from 42 to 27 per million between 1993 and 2012. The researchers hypothesized that public education, improved motor safety features, stricter seat belt laws, stricter drunk driving laws, and enforcement have decreased the overall number of injuries in this age group.
However, older men and women between the ages of 65 and 74 years old increased significantly. The rate of men’s spinal cord injuries for this age group increased from 84 per million to 131 per million over the study period. In addition, the rate of women suffering from this type of injury in this age group went from 32 per million to 53 per million in the study.
For all people ages 65 years and older, the rate of spinal cord injuries from falls has also increased significantly. Between 1997 and 2000 the rate was 28% and rose to 66% between 2010 and 2012. Falls are a major source of concern for our country’s aging population and deaths from spinal cord injuries in the older population remains high.
Recommendations from the Study
One medical professional stated that “Data from this study indicates the need to monitor older persons for falls, especially at home.” Falls that happen at home among the elderly typically happen because of loose objects on the ground, poor fitting shoes, and out-of-date eyeglasses prescriptions. Using canes, walkers, and avoiding using phones while walking were all recommended, as well. As people get older, loss of balance and motor skills in addition to vision problems places this section of the population at a higher risk for falls.
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