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Spinal Cord Injuries in a Motorcycle Accident

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Spinal Cord Injuries in a Motorcycle Accident

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There are many benefits to riding a motorcycle, including an increased feeling of independence, lower fuel expenses, and, often, a lower cost to purchase a bike.

Of course, riding a bike also comes with some added risks. Motorcycle riders are more exposed to the elements and, without a metal frame between the rider and the pavement, serious injuries can result.

The Hurt Report

One of the most often cited reports on motorcycle accidents is the Hurt Report. Some of the highlights include:

  • This report was completed in California during a time when new motorcycle safety studies were needed.
  • This report was funded by the government of the United States and finished with 55 different findings.
  • It closed with a series of recommendations for new laws.
  • About 75 percent of all motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle, usually a sedan.
  • The remaining 25 percent were single-vehicle motorcycle accidents.
  • Most single-vehicle accidents result from a vehicle slide-out error or over-breaking due to excess speed on a curve.
  • About half of all fatal motorcycle accidents involved alcohol.
  • In two-thirds of multi-vehicle collisions, the driver of the car violated the motorcycle’s right-of-way.
  • Many of the fatal accidents involved riders who were not wearing the proper safety equipment.
  • The weather was not cited as a factor in the vast majority of motorcycle accidents.
  • One of the main precipitating factors of accidents was the failure of the other vehicle to see the motorcycle or its rider.

As a result of the findings in this report, new laws and recommendations were made regarding motorcycles and rider safety. Among these are helmet laws and suggestions for people to wear brightly-colored clothing while riding to make it easier to spot the rider. Unfortunately, serious accidents can still occur. Many of these motorcycle accidents can lead to traumatic injuries.

Types of Traumatic Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents

Like a car accident, a motorcycle accident can happen at any time, and everyone needs to understand that injuries might occur. Some of the most common injuries that individuals might sustain include:

  • traumatic brain injury, which can be mitigated by wearing a helmet.
  • Bone fractures, especially of the radius, ulna, tibia, and fibula.
  • Damage to soft tissue structures and organs, mainly through the chest and abdominal trauma.
  • Neck injuries, which can include the back and the spinal cord.

Trauma to the spinal cord can be particularly worrisome. The spinal cord connects the base of the brain to the rest of the body. The brain transmits motor commands through the spinal cord’s nerves, and the extremities return sensory information to the brain along these same paths. Anything that disrupts these signals could have permanent consequences. A recent study reviewed the types of spinal cord injuries that occur in motorcycle accidents.

A Study: Types of Spinal Cord Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents

The spinal cord is broken up into multiple segments, each with nerves that power specific parts of the body. From top to bottom, the components of the spinal cord include:

  • The cervical region
  • The thoracic spine
  • The lumbar spine
  • The sacral spine

Researchers completed a review of numerous spinal cord injuries and published their findings in an academic journal. Published in the Journal of Trauma, the researchers’ goal was to identify potential patterns in spinal cord injuries and track the outcomes of these injuries based on locations. More than 1,100 motorcycle accidents were analyzed over 18 years. Many of these accidents led to a spinal cord injury. Their results showed that:

  • In more than 10 percent of the accidents, the rider suffered a severe spinal cord injury.
  • The average age of the riders hurt was 30 years old.
  • In more than 75 percent of accidents involving a spinal cord injury, the individual suffered multiple injuries, called polytrauma.
  • The most commonly injured portion of the spine was the thoracic region.
  • This was followed by the lumbar region and then the cervical region.
  • In nearly half of all of the cases of spinal cord injuries, multiple vertebrae were damaged.
  • About 10 percent of the individuals required surgery.
  • Close to 20 percent of the riders who were injured were left with permanent complications.
  • About 10 percent of the riders who suffered a spinal cord injury died.

This study shows that the thoracic spine is the most commonly injured part of the spinal cord. A significant number of accidents damage multiple locations in the spine, which can lead to severe complications. Many of the riders suffered permanent complications, required surgery, or even passed away. Because of this, it is crucial for everyone who has suffered an injury of the head, neck, or back following a motorcycle accident to seek medical care as quickly as possible.

Treatment Options for Spinal Cord Injuries

Those involved in a severe motorcycle accident with symptoms indicative of a spinal cord injury will likely be transported to a medical center via ambulance. Once there, several different steps will take place in rapid succession. These include:
  • A complete history and physical examination will be obtained, looking for clues as to where the damage might have occurred in the spine.
  • Any obviously broken bones will be immobilized.
  • If the skin is open, antibiotic treatment will likely be started.
  • Steroids will be given to reduce the swelling in the central nervous system, trying to minimize damage from swelling.
  • A CT scan, x-ray, and/or MRI scan will be ordered to take a closer look at the brain and spinal cord.

If a visible lesion is seen on imaging, the individual could require surgery to try and repair the damage. Some of the findings could include:

  • A displaced bone fracture
  • A ruptured ligament or tendon
  • Possible herniated discs
  • Compression on the cord 
  • A possible hematoma or abscess that needs to be drained

Of course, this does come with its risks. After the surgical procedure has been completed, the recovery process is lengthy.

Recovering from a Spinal Cord Injury

Once an individual is discharged home from the hospital, the recovery process is far from complete. In actuality, it is only beginning. Everyone must keep their follow-up appointments with their specialists because this will help them regain motor and sensory functions. Some of the challenges of the recovery process include:

  • Trying to restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion with the help of physical therapy.
  • Managing chronic pain that could accompany a severe spinal cord injury.
  • Trying to return to work or school after the injury.

Everyone needs to know that this process is not easy and will not happen overnight. With time, individuals might regain some of the lost motor and sensory functions. 

The animated video below explains how damage to the spinal cord can disturb any or all of the functions in the body.

Contacting an Experienced Lawyer

Motorcycle riding is dangerous, and accidents can occur. Regardless of the reason for the crash, if a loved one has suffered significant injuries, they could require surgery. This might also be followed by an extended hospital stay. It is expected for families to have questions after such a severe accident. Under these circumstances, it is essential to meet with a trained and experienced motorcycle accident lawyer in Sacramento. A personal injury lawyer can help with:

  • Discussions with insurance carriers, including property and health insurance providers.
  • Completing a full investigation of the accident.
  • Looking for missed details related to accidents and injuries.
  • Helping a family through the process of filing paperwork with the court system, if necessary.

A trained attorney understands how to walk a family through this situation and can present all of the options available, helping to make a decision that sets them up for the future. 

Sacramento Motorcycle Accident Attorney

Motorcycle accidents can lead to significant damage to the spinal cord, which could lead to lifelong complications. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, call our experienced motorcycle accident attorneys in Sacramento at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly legal advice.

We are members of the National Association of Distinguished Counsel and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

See our client reviews on GoogleYelp, and Avvo and the verdicts and settlements case history.

Editor’s note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 11.19.21]

Image Attribution: Pixabay.

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