Spinal Cord Injury Statistics

  • It is estimated that the annual incidence of spinal cord injury (SCI), not including those who die at the scene of the accident is approximately 12,000 new cases each year.
  • Age of injury:  SCI primarily affects young adults.  The average age at injury was 28.7 years, and most injuries occurred between the ages of 16 and 30.  However, as the median age of the general population of the United States has increased the average age has also steadily increased over time.  Since 2005, the average age at injury is 41 years.
  • 80.6% of spinal cord injuries reported occurred among males. 
  • 66.0% are Caucasian, 26.2% are African American, 8.3% are Hispanic, and 3.0% are from other racial/ethnic groups.
  • Motor vehicle crashes account for 39.2% of reported SCI cases.  The next most common cause of SCI is falls at 28.3%, followed by acts of violence 14.6% and recreational sporting activities 8.2%, unknown 9.7%.
  • 89.3% of all persons with SCI are discharged from the system are sent to a private, non-institutional residence.  Only 6.6% are discharged to nursing homes.  The remaining are discharged to hospitals, group living situations or other destinations.
  • Lifetime costs:  The average estimated lifetime costs that are directly attributable to SCI vary greatly according to severity of injury.  High Tetraplegia (C1-C4) $4,543,182.  Low Tetraplegia (C5-C8) $3,319,533.  Paraplegia $2,221,596 and Incomplete Motor Functional at Any Level $1,517,806.  These figures do not include any indirect costs such as losses in wages, fringe benefits and productivity which average $69,204 per year.
  • Life expectancy is the average remaining years of life for an individual.  Life expectancies for persons with SCI are somewhat below life expectancies for those with no spinal cord injury.  Mortality rates are significantly higher during the first year after injury.  The causes of death that appear to have the greatest impact on reduced life expectancy for this population are pneumonia, and septicemia.

Published by The University of Alabama at Birmingham