Spinal Cord Injury Facts and Figures at a Glance

Pie chart showing causes of SCI: 38.4% Vehicular, 30.5% Falls, 13.5% Violence, 8.9% Sports, 4.7% Medical/surgical, and 4% Other

SCI Causes, since 2010


Here are some statistics about SCI from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center web site.  Disclaimer:  This site in general and this post in particular does not contain medical advice.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the PNP Site!

This is useful information to have because it gives a “big picture” view of the common medical consequences of SCI.  It’s not a predictor of how any individual case will turn out, so please don’t mistake it as such. But now that we know what average looks like, let’s each try to beat the averages!  If you want to know how this might apply to you, I suggest that you download and print the report (see the link near the bottom of this page), read it, and then talk with your doctor about how this might apply to your specific situation.

  • A recent estimate showed that the annual incidence of spinal cord injury (SCI) is approximately 54 cases per one million people in the United States, or about 17,500 new SCI cases each year. New SCI cases do not include those who die at the scene of the accident.
  • It is estimated that 20 cases per million (4860 per year) die before reaching the hospital. These people are not included in any of the statistics reported below.
  • The number of people in the U.S. who are alive in 2017 who have SCI has been estimated to be approximately 285,000 persons
  • The average age at injury has increased from 29 years during the 1970s to 42 years currently.
  • Males account for about 81% of new SCI cases.
  • Lengths of stay in the hospital acute care unit have declined from 24 days in the 1970s to 11 days currently.
  • Rehabilitation lengths of stay have also declined from 98 days in the 1970s to 35 days currently.
  • Life Expectancy:  The average remaining years of life for persons with SCI have not improved since the 1980s and remain significantly below life expectancies of persons without SCI. Mortality rates are significantly higher during the first year after injury than during subsequent years, particularly for persons with the most severe neurological impairments.
  • Causes of death:  Persons enrolled in the National SCI Database since its inception in 1973 have now been followed for 40 years after injury. During that time, the causes of death that appear to have the greatest impact on reduced life expectancy for this population are pneumonia and septicemia. Mortality rates are declining for cancer, heart disease, stroke, arterial diseases, pulmonary embolus, urinary diseases, digestive diseases, and suicide. However, these gains are being offset by increasing mortality rates for endocrine, metabolic and nutritional diseases, accidents, nervous system diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, and mental disorders. There has been no change in the mortality rate for septicemia in the past 40 years, and only a slight decrease in mortality due to respiratory diseases.

Download the report, which is in Adobe Acrobat Format.  To read the download, you may need to get a copy of the Adobe Reader application.

National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, Facts and Figures at a Glance. Birmingham, AL: University of Alabama at Birmingham, 2017

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