Spinal Cord Injury Prevention

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, there are approximately 282,000 persons with Spinal Cord Injury in the U.S., with approximately 17,000 new spinal cord injury cases each year. The most common incidents leading to spinal cord injury include: Motor vehicle accidents, falls, acts of violence and sports/recreation activities.

In honor of September being National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month, learn how to reduce your risk of spinal cord injury by following prevention recommendations that include:

Drive safely

Car crashes are one of the most common causes of spinal cord injuries. Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a car. Make sure that your children wear a seat belt or use an age and weight appropriate child safety seat.

Check water depth before diving

 To make sure you don't dive into shallow water, don't dive into a pool unless it's 9 feet (about 3 meters) or deeper, don't dive into an above ground pool and don't dive into any water of which you don't know the depth.

Prevent falls

Use a step stool with a grab bar to reach objects in high places. Add handrails along stairways. Put nonslip mats on tile floors and in the tub or shower. For young children, use safety gates to block stairs and consider installing window guards.

If you feel like your balance is not as good as it can be, please visit your doctor and ask for a prescription for physical therapy.  You can be assessed for fall risk and given exercises to improve your balance and prevent falls.

Take precautions when playing sports

Always wear recommended safety gear. Avoid leading with your head in sports. For example, don't slide headfirst in baseball, and don't tackle using the top of your helmet in football. Use a spotter for new moves in gymnastics.

Don't drink and drive

Don't drive while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Don't ride with a driver who's been drinking.

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While prevention is helpful, many individuals living with spinal cord injury turn to outpatient physical rehabilitation as a proactive way to maintain health and overall strength. Designed by physicians specializing in Spinal Cord Injury Medicine, our outpatient Spinal Cord Injury Program at Penn Therapy & Fitness treats patients who experience a number of conditions that often need combined physical, occupational or speech therapies.

If you or a loved one is living with spinal cord injury, we invite you to attend our monthly Spinal Cord Injury Support Group on the third Tuesday of each month at the Penn Medicine Rittenhouse Campus. This support group is for patients, family members and community members impacted by spinal cord injury. For more information please contact Lindsay Furlong at lindsay.furlong@uphs.upenn.edu.

Learn more about the outpatient spinal cord therapy services available at Penn Therapy & Fitness locations.