International Perspectives on Spinal Cord Injury

Every year between 250 000 and 500 000 people suffer a spinal cord injury, with road traffic crashes, falls and violence as the three leading causes.  People with spinal cord injuries are 2 to 5 times more likely to die prematurely, with worse survival rates in low- and middle-income countries. They also have lower rates of school enrolment and economic participation than people without such injuries. The new WHO report (released on 3 December 2013), “International perspectives on spinal cord injury“, summarises the best available evidence on the causes, prevention, care and lived experience of people with spinal cord injury.

International perspectives on spinal cord injury was developed in association with the International Spinal Cord Society and Swiss Paraplegic Research, it aims to:

  • assemble and summarise information on spinal cord injury, in particular the epidemiology, services, interventions and policies that are relevant, together with the lived experience of people with spinal cord injury;
  • make recommendations for actions based on this evidence that are consistent with the aspirations for people with disabilities as expressed in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Spinal cord injury has costly consequences for the individual and society, but it is preventable, survivable and need not preclude good health and social inclusion. Ensuring an adequate medical and rehabilitation response, followed by supportive services and accessible environments, can help minimise the disruption to people with spinal cord injury and their families.

Much of the effectiveness care for individuals with spinal cord injury comes down to education.   Good education on this topic is lacking in much of the world which results in ineffective care and poor outcomes.   There are several free resources for physiotherapists and physical therapists that have been developed by Associate Professor Lisa Harvey and here team:

  • is an educational resource that provides comprehensive information on SCI management to students and clinicians from all medical and paramedical disciplines involved in SCI care.
  • is a website that allows users to search for exercises appropriate for people with spinal cord injuries and other neurological conditions and select exercises and compile them into booklets for clients.

To enhance the availability of good education globally for the care and management of spinal cord injures, Physiopedia is looking into delivering a free online course next year on this topic.  Watch this space…..!