Slips and falls can cause permanent spinal cord injuries that leave victims with decreased strength, loss of sensation, and diminished bodily functions at any point below the point of injury. When a person suffers a spinal cord injury, even prompt treatment may not restore full function. In addition to physical changes, spinal cord injuries can cause long-term changes to the victim’s mental and emotional health.
Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries
Approximately 20% of spinal cord injuries are caused by falls on the same level. These include slips, trips, and stumbles on slippery surfaces. Roughly 16% of spinal cord injuries occur on steps and stairs, while 9% are caused by falls from ladders.
People over the age of 61 are at the greatest risk of suffering a fall on the same level. Conversely, individuals between the ages of 16-45 are at greatest risk of falling from heights including falls from ladders, buildings, and scaffolds. Most falls from heights happen on the job.
Even a fall from a short distance can cause a permanent spinal cord injury. Many factors determine the extent of the injury including patient age, overall health, the surface they fall upon, and the angle their body strikes the ground.
Symptoms of Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries can cause a wide range of symptoms. These include loss of sensation in limbs, persistent tingling sensations in the fingers and toes, changes to taste, or difficulty moving limbs. Other symptoms include loss of coordination, loss of bowel/bladder control, difficulty breathing, inability to grasp objects, or sudden, intermittent pain.
There are certain symptoms that can indicate potentially fatal complications. These include extreme pressure on the head, neck, or back. Sudden weakness or paralysis of any limb and difficulty breathing are symptoms that require prompt medical attention.
Diagnosing Spinal Cord Injuries
It is imperative to receive a proper diagnosis when a spinal cord injury is suspected. Doctors can determine the presence and extent of a spinal cord injury through x-rays, computerized tomography, or magnetic resonance imaging. The data gathered by these tests can be used to support a personal injury lawsuit or workers’ compensation claim.
Often, x-ray is the first test performed. However, while x-rays can identify tumors and fractures, they have limited use determining the full extent of the injury. MRI’s and CT scans are more powerful and can provide a clearer picture of the injury including blood clots, abnormalities, herniated discs, etc.