A Fall Down the Stairs Can Devastate the Head and SpineApril 19, 2018
For thousands of years, humans have conquered the problem of changing elevation by building stairs. No doubt for just as long, we have feared to careen down them. After all, the human body isn’t indestructible, and what could pose a greater combined threat than gravity, velocity, and a rapid series of 90-degree angles?
One of the reasons falls down the stairs can be so gravely injurious, and even fatal, is that when people lose their balance—on a poorly maintained surface, for example—and fall backward on a downward slope with hard angles, they impact in positions that target the head and spine. Any major impact to the head can cause serious, long-term injury. This is also true of blows to the spine, especially those that breach the spinal column and affect the spinal cord. These injuries can result in pain and suffering, long-term disability, and loss of the ability to work. Unfortunately, falling down the stairs is all too common: the National Safety Council ranks stairway falls second only to motor vehicle accidents as a leading cause of accidental injury.
5 Common Head and Spine Injuries Caused by Falls Down Stairs
1. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). A hard impact to the head can cause coma, hemorrhages or swelling in the brain, amnesia, and more. After this type of injury, there may be long-term issues with mobility, memory, cognition, and behavior that require long-term rehabilitation.
2. Spinal Cord Injury or Cut. A complete injury of the spinal cord means that the spinal cord has been severed, and this results in paralysis from the point of the injury downward. A complete injury of the spinal cord in the cervical (neck) region may also disrupt automatic functions such as breathing, such that a person with this type of injury would require a breathing tube. An incomplete injury to the spinal cord is a more superficial cut, which means that the injured person might retain more sensation and motor function and could improve with rehabilitation.
3. Broken Spine. Recovery from breaks to any part of the spine can be arduous and painful. Injured people with clean breaks may be allowed to let the bones heal on their own, keeping the area immobilized using a cervical or back brace. When the broken bone is shattered or not healing properly, spinal fusion surgery is usually performed. This is a complex procedure that involves reinforcing the spine with titanium and/or bone grafts. Whether surgery is required or not, people with spinal breaks face months, if not years of rehabilitation.
4. Compression of Discs and Slipped Discs. Stairway falls can cause trauma to the walls of spinal discs, causing them to painfully compress or bulge (“slip”). This can lead to severe pain, numbness, and muscle weakness, not just localized at the point of trauma but radiating to the arms and legs as well. Disc surgery and/or extensive physical therapy are the usual outcomes of this type of injury.
5. Nerve Damage. Nerve damage from a sudden trauma like falling down the stairs can be much subtler to diagnose than a broken bone. Still, the effects of nerve trauma can be devastating. People with this injury can have pain, numbness, tingling, burning, crushing headaches, reduced motor function, unusual clumsiness, and more. Nerve damage can be difficult to treat and long rehabilitation periods are often involved.
Stair Falls Are Preventable
The National Safety Council recommends that regular inspections be performed on stairways to prevent unnecessary injuries. In public places such as restaurants and retail stores, this is the responsibility of property owners. At work, it is the responsibility of your employer. Additionally, the NSC recommends preemptive safety measures such as handrails, stair treads, and adequate lighting.
If you have fallen on a stairway that should have been better maintained by an employer or property owner, you should call a personal injury attorney so that you can begin the often-long fight for just compensation. If you initiate a lawsuit and are concerned about paying the bills as it wends its way through the court system, then USClaims can help.
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