Spinal Cord Injury Prevention & First Aid


Spinal cord injuries occur when the nerve cells in a person’s spine are damaged by a partial or complete severance of the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries can happen to anyone at any time, but they occur most frequently in men. Of the approximately 11,000 Americans who suffer spinal cord injuries each year, nearly four-fifths of those injured are male.

Preventing Spinal Cord Injuries

 Spinal cords can be damaged in motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, work-related accidents, firearm accidents and falls. Follow these tips to protect yourself from future spinal cord injuries: 

  • Securely fasten your seatbelt when riding in a motor vehicle.
  • Always wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle or bicycle.
  • When participating in sports, always where appropriate protective equipment.
  • When playing contact sports, never lead with your head or helmet.
  • Never dive into shallow or murky water.
  • Help elderly family members prevent spinal cord injuries by eliminating fall hazards around the house.

Engaging in risky activities like motorcycle riding, skydiving or playing rough sports increases your risk of suffering a spinal cord injury.

What To Do Immediately After a Spinal Cord Injury

As with other head or neck injuries, prompt medical attention can help reduce and even prevent complications from a spinal cord injury. If you suspect that someone has a spinal cord injury, call 9-1-1 immediately and make sure the person’s head and neck don’t move until paramedics arrive. If a person has been in a diving-related pool accident, help the person float face-up in the water until the paramedics arrive. 

If you’re unsure whether someone has suffered a spinal cord injury, call 9-1-1 and watch for symptoms such as:

  • Paralysis on any portion of the body
  • Loss of feeling
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Coordination difficulty
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Spinal cord injuries can worsen if left untreated. Some symptoms may not present immediately. Prevent further damage by seeking urgent medical attention if you think there’s any possibility of spinal injury. 

Locate your nearest St. Luke's Health emergency room to know where to go when minutes matter.

Spinal Cord Injury Resources:

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