This 15th report in the Spinal cord injury, Australia series presents national statistics on spinal cord injury (SCI) using data from case registrations to the Australian Spinal Cord Injury Register (ASCIR) for 2013–14.

Two-hundred-and-thirty-six newly incident cases of traumatic SCI due to external causes were reported for 2013–14. Of those, 231 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 11.8 cases per million population aged 15 and older. The age-specific rate was highest for ages 15–24 (16.7 cases per million population), followed by 14.7 cases per million population for ages 65–74.

Incidence rates of persisting traumatic SCI for male residents were higher across all age groups than those for female residents, with the exception of the age group 75 or older.

The median length of stay in a participating SU for Australian residents discharged alive with persisting traumatic SCI was 147 days.

Causes of spinal cord injury

Just under half of all traumatic SCI cases reported to the ASCIR for the 2013–14 period were due to Land transport crashes (46%), while close to one-third were due to either a High or Low fall (32%).

Motorcycle drivers accounted for almost one-third (32%) of land transport-related SCI cases in 2013–14. Motor vehicle drivers were the next most numerous type of user injured in Land transport crashes, followed by motor vehicle passengers (23% and 18%, respectively). Cases involving quad-bikes, or a similar type of land transport vehicle, accounted for 3% of all traumatic SCI sustained during 2013–14.

A Low fall contributed to 17% of traumatic SCI cases for 2013–14, while High falls accounted for 15%. Other reported mechanisms of injury for traumatic SCI in 2013–14 included Water-related events such as diving into shallow water (10%), Football (including rugby codes) (3%), Horse-related (2%) and Heavy falling objects (2%). The remaining 6% of cases were due to violent assaults or while operating heavy machinery.

Of traumatic SCI cases, 45% occurred while the person was Engaged in sports or leisure activity. Injuries sustained While working for income, including travel to and from work, accounted for 8% of traumatic SCI cases during 2013–14.