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Spinal Cord Injuries on the Rise in Older Americans

For years, car accidents were the leading cause of traumatic spinal cord injuries in the United States. However, using data from 2007 to 2009, the study found that falls made up 41.5% of traumatic injuries, surpassing car accidents at 35.5%. The study also found that the rate for spinal cord injuries decreased for the 18-64 age group, but increased for those over 65 years old.

The research also yielded the conclusion that the average age of adults with a spinal cord injury is 51, a 10-year increase in age from a study of data from 2000 to 2005, and that spinal cord injuries are four to six times more likely to be fatal for the senior population, compared with the younger age group.

While the doctors were unable to determine an exact cause for the increase in age or in injuries caused by falls, they did pinpoint a few possible factors. The increase in falls over motor vehicle accidents is likely due to an increase in the use of airbags and more stringent seatbelt laws across the United States. Similarly, they believe that the increase in age is due to the rising average age overall in the United States and more active lifestyle of older Americans.

As baby boomers continue to age, it wouldn’t be surprising if these numbers  continue to increase. For all of my patients, I encourage an active and healthy lifestyle, and recommend continuing to strengthen the core muscles that support the spine. However, it is always important to know your limits and not push your body too far.