Spinal Cord Injuries in a Motorcycle Accident
Your spine consists of 4 parts–cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral regions. The spinal cord plays a major role in communicating to the brain regarding motor function such as the use of your arms and legs, bladder, bowels and sexual organs. An injury to the cord may fracture, crush, dislocate or compress one or more vertebrae. Bleeding, swelling, inflammation and the pooling of blood in the spinal region can worsen the trauma.
Relatively minor injuries that do not cause paralysis include spinal compression that gradually leads to numbness and weakness. A herniated disc can also cause numbness, weakness, and debilitating pain. These can be nagging and persistent causing pain and difficulty walking, bending or standing. Major injuries can lead to paraplegia or quadriplegia.
A spinal cord injury that causes paralysis is either complete or incomplete. Complete refers to the loss of function below the point of injury. Incomplete means you have retained some sensation or function below the point of injury. You may be able to move one limb or have some feeling in a limb but be unable to move it.
Although rear-end collisions are not the most common type of accidents involving motorcycles, they account for the highest risk of sustaining a cord injury.
Cervical Spine Trauma
The cervical region consists of eight vertebrae beginning at the base of the skull. A severe fracture can lead to tetraplegia or quadriplegia, which is total paralysis from the neck down. Along with the loss of sensation or touch are dysfunction of your respiratory, bowel, bladder and sexual organs. Cervical spine injuries make up 27% of spinal injuries from motorcycle accidents.
Thoracic Spine Trauma
Your thoracic spine begins at the 9th vertebrae and is labeled T1 to T12. Injuries to this section are less common since it is protected by the rib cage at least in most accidents, however, this area is the most affected in a bike crash. An injury to these vertebrae can lead to paralysis of the legs as well as dysfunction of your bowel, bladder, and sexual organs.
Sacral Spine Trauma
Your sacral vertebrae are S1 to S5. Injury can cause weakness to paralysis of your legs and hips and loss of bladder, bowel, and sexual function.
There is some disagreement over whether wearing a helmet increases the likelihood of suffering a neck injury. However, it is not disputed that wearing one does significantly decrease the chances of suffering a traumatic brain injury and in surviving a crash.