Transport-related injuries, work-related falls and sports injuries responsible for most spinal cord

The number and rate of new cases of spinal cord injury (SCI), and the reasons behind them have changed very little in recent years, according to the latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Spinal cord injury, Australia 2004–05, presents national statistics on 381 new cases of persisting spinal cord injury from traumatic causes and disease.

For the 280 traumatic cases of spinal cord injury, transport-related injuries, falls and sports-related injuries accounted for 49%, 29% and 16% respectively during 2004–05.

Of the 108 cases involving traffic, 67 were vehicle occupants and 41 were unprotected road users, including 36 who were motorcyclists.

Falls led to 82 cases of persisting spinal cord injury. About two-thirds of these were falls from a height of 1 metre or higher, and largely involved males aged 15 to 64 years. Most of these falls occurred while working, during either paid or unpaid work.

Falls from one metre or less led to spinal cord injury in 29 cases—66% of these involving people aged 65 years or older.

Sporting activities most frequently linked to SCI are trail bike and motocross racing and diving and surfing.

Dr Raymond Cripps of the AIHW's National Injury Surveillance Unit said while spinal cord injury is uncommon, personal and health system costs are high.

'In 2004–05 the average duration of initial care following persisting spinal cord injury was almost five months,' Dr Cripps said.

'Additionally, most cases of persisting spinal cord injury occur at young ages (25% of new cases registered in 2004–05 were at ages 15 to 24 years) and, provided initial injury is survived, life expectancy is generally long,' he said.

The vast majority of cases (82%) involved males.

The Australian Spinal Cord Injury Register, established and operated by the AIHW National Injury Surveillance Unit in collaboration with State spinal units, is the only national register of its kind in the world.

14 September 2006

Further information: Dr Raymond Cripps, AIHW, tel. 08 8201 7602.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel 61 2 6244 1032.