A spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord that causes loss of function, feeling and mobility. Spinal cord injuries are most commonly caused by trauma including motor vehicle accidents, falls, sports-related injury and acts of violence. Sports-related spinal cord injuries occur more commonly in children and teenagers, while work-related injuries (especially from construction work) are more common in adults.
Spinal cord injuries may result in paralysis including quadriplegia (a loss of function below the neck) and paraplegia (a loss of function below the chest). The spinal cord does not need to be completely severed to cause loss of function. Compression of the spinal cord or bruising or inflammation can also cause loss of function.
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Last reviewed: February 2020