May 4, 2010
Prevent Spinal Cord Injury At All Ages
By Dr. Jennifer Yang, Spinal Cord Injury Specialist
Walton Rehabilitation Health System
Augusta, GA—Someone in the U.S. sustains a life-changing spinal cord injury every hour, but prevention takes only a second.
Spinal cord injuries can happen in an instant, and something as simple as forgetting to wear a seatbelt, tripping over a rug or not checking water levels before diving can have devastating consequences. The leading cause of spinal cord injury varies depending on a person’s age. But regardless of age, being aware and taking the appropriate precautions can help reduce your risk and your family’s risk of injury.
Walton Rehabilitation Health System’s Spinal Cord Injury Services present the following spinal cord injury prevention checklist for all ages.
For Those Under 29
While sports and recreational activities make up only 18 percent of all spinal cord injuries, the majority of these injuries happen in those 29 and younger. To help reduce your risk:
- Always wear an appropriate helmet and other safety gear during sports and recreation activities. This includes any wheeled activities, horseback riding, football, baseball or softball.
- Always check water levels and underwater obstructions before diving, even if you’re diving in a familiar place. Don’t dive in water less than 12 feet deep or in above-ground pools.
- Avoid sliding head-first when stealing a base, or using your helmet to hit, block or tackle a player during football.
- Don’t wear headphones when biking; be aware of the traffic around you.
- Use trampolines only when someone with adequately trained supervision is present. Somersaults should not be attempted without safety harnesses, only one person should use the trampoline at a time, and all supports and landing surfaces should have protective padding.
For Those Under 65
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of spinal cord injury for this age group. To help reduce your risk:
- Always buckle up when driving.
- Ensure that children are secured in a weight- and age-appropriate child safety seat and place children under 12 in the back seat to prevent airbag injuries.
- Don’t drink and drive, and prevent others from driving or riding with drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
For Those Older Than 65
Older adults often sustain spinal cord injuries due to falls in the home. To help reduce your risk:
- Remove slippery throw rugs and other trip and slip hazards like loose electrical cords.
- Place non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower and install grab bars.
- Wear sturdy, non-slip shoes.
- Discuss with your doctor any medications you are taking that could increase your risk of falling.
Thanks to comprehensive rehabilitation programs and community support, those with spinal cord injury can continue to lead fulfilling, productive lives. However, having a spinal cord injury does require lifelong care. While strides continue to be made in spinal cord treatment and research, prevention remains the best cure.
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