In 2020–21, spinal injuries resulted in:

  • 19,378 ED presentations
  • 75.5 per 100,000 population
  • 26,556 hospitalisations
  • 103.5 per 100,000 population

Key findings

  • Males made up over half of spinal injury ED presentations and hospitalisations (52% and 53% respectively).
  • People living in Very remote areas were over twice as likely to be hospitalised for a spinal injury compared to people living in Major cities.
  • First Nations Australians are more likely to be affected by spinal injuries than non-indigenous Australians.
  • Falls were the leading cause of spinal injury hospitalisations (56% or 14,845 cases).
    • Spinal injury hospitalisations contributed to 6% of all fall-related injury hospitalisations overall.
    • The majority of spinal injuries caused by falls were among females, for whom 2 in 3 spinal injury hospitalisations were due to a fall (63%). This proportion is higher than the proportion of all female injury hospitalisations due to falls (52%).
  • Transport was the second most frequent cause of spinal injury hospitalisations (31% or 8,133 cases)
    • Spinal injury hospitalisations contributed to 12% of all transport-related injury hospitalisations.
    • Of all transport related spinal injury hospitalisations, most were car occupants (44%) and motorcyclists (20%), followed by pedal cyclists (13%) and pedestrians (6%).
    • Of all recorded injury hospitalisations that were car related, 17% were for spinal injury hospitalisations.
    • The majority of spinal injury hospitalisations caused by transport accidents were among males, comprising 63% or 5,125 cases.
  • Fractures contributed to 3 in 5 spinal injury ED presentations (58%, or 11,317 cases) and 4 in 5 spinal injury hospitalisations (83% or 19,093 cases).
  • While the cervical spine is the predominant site of injury in ED presentations ( 44%), the lumbar region was the most frequently affected spinal region in injury hospitalisations where spinal injury was the principal diagnosis (34%).
  • Where the place of the incident was recorded (75% of cases), the home (46% or 9,108 cases) and street or highway (29% or 5,771 cases) were the most frequently reported locations for spinal injury related accidents.
  • Spinal injury hospitalisations were more severe compared to total injury hospitalisations for all six severity measures used in this report.