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Young men dominate spinal injuries

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YOUNG Australian men dominate a register of major spinal injuries, with road accidents the main cause.

Men aged 15 to 24 accounted for the most new cases of persisting spinal cord injury in the 2006-07 financial year.

“We use the term persisting to say you will now live with that level of spinal cord injury, or paralysis, for the rest of your life,” said Dr Sophie Pointer, assistant director of the National Injury Surveillance Unit.

“The majority of spinal cord injuries occur as a result of transport … and males are overrepresented in transport injuries.”

There were a total of 272 cases of major spinal injury caused by some form of accident during the year.

Transport-related incidents accounted for more than half (52 per cent) of these while people falling over, or falling from a height, made up 29 per cent.

The rest of the injuries were suffered in incidents either related to water, sports pursuits or on-the-job accidents.

Motorcycle crashes resulted in 37 cases of serious spinal injury, up from 26 in 2005-06.

There were 21 cases of serious spinal injury associated with water – with half of these involving diving into water that was too shallow.

The message for young men, Dr Pointer said, was that they should take more care on the road and around water.

“Drive more carefully … and the other take-home message is take more care on the road in rural and remote locations.

“Alcohol intoxication also plays a role in … behaviour like diving into shallow water.”

Men also dominate the statistics for all age groups up to 65 when women, suffering from conditions like osteoporosis, have more spinal injuries.

Dr Pointer said this was because more women than men survived beyond 65.

“There is a general pattern of injury once you hit age 65, women tend to have more falls than men and partly … there are more women than men,” Dr Pointer said.

The figures are contained in the Spinal Cord Injury, Australia 2006-07 report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

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