This 14th report in the Spinal cord injury, Australia series presents national statistics on spinal cord injury (SCI) using data from case registrations made to the Australian Spinal Cord Injury Register (ASCIR) for 2012–13.

Two-hundred-and-forty-one new cases of SCI due to external causes (traumatic SCI) were reported for 2012–13. Of those, 232 resulted in persisting traumatic SCI.

The age-standardised rate of persisting traumatic SCI for Australian residents discharged alive, including those injured while overseas and later treated in an Australian spinal unit (SU), was estimated to be 12.2 new cases per million population aged 15 and older.

Incidence rates of persisting traumatic SCI for Australian residents discharged alive were higher for males than females at all ages. The overall rate for male residents aged 15 and older was 19.5 cases per million population, while for female residents aged 15 and older, the rate was 5.1 cases per million population; a male to female ratio of 3.8:1.

Australian residents, aged 15 and older, discharged alive with a persisting traumatic SCI sustained in 2012–13, had a median length of stay of 110 days in a specialised SU.

Causes of spinal cord injury

Land transport crashes (46%) were the leading mechanism of injury for cases of traumatic SCI sustained in 2012–13, followed by Falls (34%).

Motorcycle drivers (including quad-bike riders) accounted for more than a third (37%) of land transport-related SCI cases in 2012–13. Motor vehicle drivers were the next most commonly injured land transport user group, followed by motor vehicle passengers (30% and 16%, respectively). Quad-bikes accounted for 2% of all traumatic SCI cases for this reporting period.

Traumatic SCI cases due to High and Low falls were each reported for 17% of cases in 2012–13. Generally, Falls contributed to a greater proportion of traumatic SCI among female cases than among male cases; 42% compared with 31%, even though the case numbers for males were higher.

Other reported mechanisms of injury for traumatic SCI in 2012–13 include Water-related events such as being dumped by a wave (8%), Heavy falling objects (2%), Horse-related events (2%) and Football (including rugby codes) (2%). Other cases were due to violence-related causes, operating machinery and other sporting or physical activities.

More than one-third (39%) of traumatic SCI cases sustained during 2012–13 occurred while the person was Engaged in sports or leisure. Injuries sustained While working for income, including travel to and from work, accounted for 11% of traumatic SCI for this period.