Spinal Cord Injury in Men

More Common in Men Than Women

Physical therapist talks with patient about spine injury
Spinal cord injury. asiseeit / Getty Images

Because men generally get involved in riskier activities than women, they are more prone to accidents or other forms of trauma. Some injuries have a long lasting impact on men's lives. Without a doubt, one of the most debilitating and life-altering events comes as a result of spinal cord injuries (SCIs).

The men most at risk are those is the 15 to 29-year-old age range. This is because men engage in more risky behaviors when they are younger.

Figures from the National SCI Data Center, based at the University of Alabama, show that 77.8 percent of SCIs have occurred among males since 2000.

What is Spinal Cord Injury?

SCIs occur as the result of a traumatic injury to the spine. A fractured or dislocated vertebra damages the spinal cord usually causing partial severance, but sometimes complete severance that results in nerve cell damage. Damage to nerve cells means that messages passing to and from the brain via the spinal cord are impaired or completely stopped resulting in partial or complete paralysis that may be temporary or a permanent condition.

According to the National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control, nearly 200,000 people in the US live with a disability related to SCI. Approximately 11,000 Americans each year are hospitalized because of spinal injuries, although the exact number of people is unknown because there have been no recent overall studies.

Black males are more at risk of SCI than white males. Over half of people who sustain a SCI are unmarried.

Causes of SCI include sports and recreational activities. Motor vehicles account for 46.9 percent of SCI, antisocial behaviors and violence 13.7 percent. Drug use, most commonly alcohol, and firearms also figure in the statistics.

Older people over the age of 65 are at greater risk of spinal cord injury from falls.

Spinal Injuries Change Lives

SCI is a devastating condition. To tell a young man, or any individual, that they may never walk, play sports, have sexual intercourse, or may have to change or give up their current employment with all the social and economic implications, is hard to imagine. It is little wonder that SCI has long-term psychological as well as physical effects on the individual and his family.

SCIs that result in partial or total loss of sensation and movement do not follow a prescribed route. The emotional trauma experienced is highly individual and can fluctuate, depending on personality and the new hurdles that have to be overcome.

Initially, the grief felt tends to go through the same sort of process as that experienced by someone dealing with the death of a loved one. Denial is followed by sadness or depression, anger tends to turn to bargaining and finally, in most cases, a sort of acceptance and a realistic view the condition.

Complications Associated with SCIs

People who survive a spinal cord injury usually have a number of medical complications to deal with. Their severity can be influenced by the seriousness and extent of paralysis.

Bladder and bowel dysfunction, an increased susceptibility to respiratory, heart problems and pressure sores are possible. Chronic pain may add to the difficulties experienced. Successful recovery depends upon how well these chronic conditions are handled day to day. Active medical intervention is essential to minimize their effects and help a person with spinal cord injury have the best quality of life.

More Related information:

Article Sources Include:
"National Center for Injury Prevention and Control." Spinal Cord Injury Fact Sheet. 09 07 06. Centers for Disease Control. 6 Nov 2006 <http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/scifacts.htm>.

Berkowitz M, O’Leary P, Kruse D, Harvey C. Spinal cord injury: An analysis of medical and social costs. New York: Demos Medical Publishing Inc., 1998.

"Spinal Cord Injury." Spinal Cord Injury at a Glance. June 2006. Spinal Injury Information Network. 6 Nov 2006 http://www.spinalcord.uab.edu/show.asp?durki=21446.

Baikie , Peggie D. et al. Handbook of Signs and Symptoms. Third edition. New York: lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006.