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Most Common Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries

Posted on May 7, 2024 in Spinal Cord Injuries

Identifying the most common causes of spinal cord injuries is critical in preventing these catastrophic injuries from occurring. Injury to the spine can cause permanent paralysis, nerve damage and chronic pain. Back, neck and spinal cord injuries can arise from many different types of accidents in California.

Common causes of spinal cord injuries

Motor Vehicle Accidents 

A study published in the National Library of Medicine analyzed spinal cord injury data and identified 37 causes of injury. Automobile accidents were the most common cause, responsible for 31.5 percent. Car accidents, truck accidents and particularly motorcycle accidents can all lead to serious spinal cord injuries. Motorcycle crashes accounted for 6.8 percent of the spinal cord injuries in the study. 

Motor vehicle accidents can inflict back and spine injuries from the forces of the collision against this part of the body. The spinal cord cannot withstand the velocity and forces involved in a crash. A victim may suffer vertebrae fractures, slipped or herniated disks, muscle sprains and strains, or even a severed spine. Serious spine injuries in an auto accident can result in paraplegia or quadriplegia (paralysis of the lower extremities or all four limbs, respectively).


Falls were the second leading cause of spinal cord injuries, responsible for about one-fourth (25.3 percent) of injuries included in the study. However, they are the number one cause of spinal cord injury in older adults (ages 65 and older). Fall accidents can cause physical trauma to various parts of the spinal cord, including the vertebrae, disks and nerves. Depending on the height and severity of the fall, a victim can suffer a mild to severe spine injury.

Acts of Violence

Violence, particularly gun violence, was identified as the third leading cause of spinal cord injuries. Acts of violence, such as physical assaults and assaults with weapons, can bruise, concuss, break or penetrate the spinal cord. These injuries can lead to long-term or permanent nerve damage. The percentage of spinal cord injuries due to violence increased by almost 30 percent from 1973 to 1999, then dropped by 14 percent after 2000.

Diving Accidents 

Diving accidents were the fifth most common cause of spine injuries (after motorcycle accidents), responsible for 4.7 percent. If an individual dives headfirst into a body of water that is too shallow, his or her head and neck can strike the bottom with enough force to injure or break the spine. 

Diving accidents can be particularly serious since the cervical spine (the vertebrae located in the neck) can be injured. A complete cervical spine injury could lead to the loss of feeling and function from the diver’s neck down, known as quadriplegia or tetraplegia. This type of injury is generally irreversible.

Sports and Recreational Activities

Other physical activities, such as sports and recreational activities, can also result in spinal cord injuries. Contact sports like tackle football in schools, for instance, could lead to spinal cord injuries for student athletes. Riding an ATV, jumping on a trampoline, base jumping, bungee jumping, surfing, climbing and cave diving are examples of other activities that could cause spine injuries. 

 Other contributing factors in spinal cord injury cases include defective products, medical malpractice, birth injuries, infections, diseases and alcohol. If another person’s careless or reckless actions contributed to your spine injury in Los Angeles, contact a Los Angeles spinal cord injury lawyer at Rose, Klein & Marias LLP for a free case evaluation.