Accidental Falls Are the Leading Cause of Spinal Cord Injuries in Utah

The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC) estimates that anywhere from 238,000 to 332,000 people are living with a spinal cord injury (SCI) in the United States, with about 12,000 new cases developing each year.  In this article, Salt Lake City spinal cord injury lawyer Darwin Overson compares SCI in Utah against national statistics to determine the largest risk factors and accident causes Utahans face.

Spinal Cord Injury Statistics: Utah vs. U.S. National Averages

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The spinal cord is a long, thin, cream-colored bundle of nerves that runs along the spinal column (backbone).  While the spinal column provides physical support and flexibility, the spinal cord carries messages back and forth between the brain and the rest of the body.

When the spinal cord is injured, whether directly or due to catastrophic damage to the spinal column, vital segments of the bridge connecting body and brain are removed.  As a result, the victim may experience severe and long-term medical consequences, which can include paralysis, loss of sensation, and reduced strength and balance.

But who is most likely to sustain a spinal cord injury?  Under what circumstances?  And are the answers to those questions different for Utah than for the United States as a whole?

NSCISC figures can help fill in the information.  Just compare the tables below to see how Utah SCI statistics differ from the national averages.


Data Years: 2010, 2013



Data Years: 2010-2011, 2013

MEDIAN AGE 42.6 years48 years
YOUNG ADULT INJURIES About 50% of SCI cases affect people aged 16 to 30About 22% of SCI cases affect people aged 16 to 30
GENDER80.7% male, 19.3% female70% male, 30% female


Auto Accidents: 36.5%
Falls: 28.5%
(Total: 65%)
Auto Accidents: 19.5%

Falls: 35.3%
(Total: 54.8%)


Quadriplegia: 52.2%
(Total: 88.9%)

Paraplegia: 32%

Quadriplegia: 49%
(Total: 81%)

PATIENT DISCHARGESPrivate Homes: 87.1%
Nursing Homes: 6.5%
Private Homes: 32%
Nursing Homes: 18%

Most of the discrepancies between the two data sets are substantial.  Based on these figures, Utahans are:

  • About 5.5 years older than the average American at the time of injury.
  • Dramatically less likely to be injured as teenagers or young adults.
  • More likely to be female.
  • More likely to be injured in a slip and fall accident or other accidental fall than they are in a car accident or other vehicular accident. Just under a fifth of Utah SCI cases develop from auto accidents, compared to more than a third for the U.S. overall.
  • Less likely than the average American to become paraplegic or quadriplegic (tetraplegic) as a result of SCI.
  • Dramatically more likely to enter a nursing home after being discharged from the hospital, and dramatically less likely to return to a private home.

What Are the Leading Causes of Spinal Cord Injuries?

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Gaps in the data make additional comparisons difficult, but NSCISC figures supply some extra information about SCI in Utah and the U.S.  For example, in the United States:

  • Most people who sustain a spinal cord injury are either Caucasian (67%) or African-American (24.4%).
  • 1% of SCI victims reported being employed at the time of their injury. Unfortunately, only 11.8% report being employed a year after being injured.  However, nearly 35% are again employed by the time 20 years have passed, suggesting gradual improvement is possible for many patients.
  • The average hospital stay for SCI is 11 days.
  • Other top causes of spinal cord injuries included acts of violence (14.3%) and sports accidents (9.2%). The cause of 11.4% of injuries was unknown.

In Utah:

  • 6% of SCI cases are caused by bicycle accidents.
  • Only 60% of patients have health insurance at the time of injury.
  • 3% of SCI victims have “complete neurological deficit,” meaning no ability to feel or move.
  • About three people are hospitalized for SCI every week.
  • 14 people died from SCI from 2010 to 2011.

Experienced Accident Attorneys Handling SCI Claims in Salt Lake City

SCI can change every aspect of your life, including mobility, independence, marriage, and employment.  Victims suffer devastating emotional, physical, and financial consequences that can impact them and their spouses, children, and parents for many years.

While nothing can undo an accident that has already taken place, filing a personal injury lawsuit or accident claim may be able to help you obtain compensation for your SCI injury, so that you and your loved ones do not have to worry about how you will pay for your medical bills.  As a spinal cord injury attorney with over three decades of experience, Darwin Overson can help determine whether you have an injury claim, and if so, evaluate some of your potential options.

To set up a free legal consultation with Darwin, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143.  Your information will be kept private.


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