Car and motorcycle crashes and falls are the most common causes of spinal cord injury in Australia, a new report shows.
And men are more likely than women to suffer serious damage to the spinal cord – the bundle of nerves that runs through the backbone.
The report, released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), shows motorcyclists are most at risk of spinal cord injury.
Latest figures reveal almost 250 new cases of serious spinal injuries were reported in 2003-04, with the majority involving car and motorcycle crashes and falls.
And most of these cases – 82 per cent – involved men.
Of the 102 cases of spinal cord injury (SCI) from road crashes, 58 were drivers or passengers in a vehicle, while 44 were “unprotected road users” – mainly motorcyclists.
The AIHW said the number of motorcyclists suffering damage to the spinal cord dropped from 46 in 2002-03 to 35 in the following period.
Despite this, report co-author Raymond Cripps said motorcyclists still remained in the at-risk group.
“Although the number of motorcycle cases was lower than in the previous year, the proportion of motorcyclists among all transport-related cases in general has tended to increase since the register started, especially for young adults aged 15-34 years,” Dr Cripps said.
The AIHW said the cost of spinal injuries in Australia remained high, both for individuals and the health care system.
The average duration of care following persisting SCI in 2003-04 was 136 days and 261 days for cases resulting in complete Tetraplegia – loss of function of arms, legs and pelvic organs.
The report also found falls accounted for 83 SCI cases in the period, nearly the same number as the previous year.
About two-thirds of these were falls from a height of one metre or higher and mostly involved men.
Sporting injuries made up six per cent of serious spinal injuries, with six cases caused by scrums and tackles in rugby.
Water-related cases accounted for 10 per cent of cases, mostly relating to surfing or diving into shallow water.
Australia became the first country in the world with a national register of spinal cord injuries in 1997.
© 2006 AAP