Often when we think of spinal cord injuries we think of damage to the spinal cord and spinal nerves caused by direct trauma to the neck or back. Most spinal cord injuries in the United States are of traumatic origin and can be caused by motor vehicle accidents, accidents that are work-related, falls (especially in people over the age of 65), acts of violence (gunshot wounds, stabbings) , and sporting & recreational injuries (contact sports, shallow water diving). It is interesting to note that, in the United States, over the past several years, the incidence of spinal cord injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents and sport & recreational injuries has decreased, perhaps because of greater awareness of the risks associated with driving and sporting/recreational activities, but the number of injuries caused by violence, especially from gunshot wounds, has increased.
In addition to the injuries listed above caused by traumatic events, more than 30% of the spinal cord injuries that occur each year are of non-traumatic origin. Tumors, birth defects, disruption of the blood supply to the spinal cord, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and infections are common causes of non-traumatic spinal cord injuries. Complications from surgery and/or from radiation may also cause spinal cord injuries and have been classified as either traumatic or non-traumatic injuries, depending on the source of the research.
Regardless of the cause of spinal cord injuries, the deficits that occur depend upon the level of the spinal cord that is involved and the amount of damage that occurs at and around the spinal levels. Losses of voluntary movement and sensation are common presentations, as are deficits in the autonomic nervous system, caused by damage to the ascending and descending tracks that allow communication in our nervous system.
The research that is being supported by the Travis Roy Foundation, through your generous donations, is benefiting people who suffer both traumatic and non-traumatic spinal cord injuries. Our researchers are developing a deeper understanding of the normal development and function of the complex nervous system and are advancing ways to encourage and enhance restorative abilities of the spinal cord following both traumatic and non-traumatic damage.
Thank you for your support! You have allowed the TRF to fund the efforts of outstanding scientists in the field of neuroscience who strive towards improving the functional abilities of people who endure spinal cord injuries.