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The central nervous system controls the behavioral movements of the human body. It is responsible for taking sensory information and responding to it.
The central nervous system is made up of two primary components: 1) the brain and 2) the spinal cord. The spinal cord collects sensory information from the peripheral nervous system and transports that information to the brain where the brain’s primary function is to receive that information and direct the appropriate motor responses to the information received.
Car accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries in the United States of America, making up approximately 50% of all new spinal cord injuries in this country every year. That amounts to over 5,000 new spinal cord injuries a year that are caused by car accidents.
Spinal cord injuries suffered in car accidents are due to trauma to the spinal region that results in compression, dislocation, fracture or crushing of the vertebrae that protects the spinal cord and other nerve fibers. Also, much like with traumatic brain injuries, resulting pressure to the spinal cord by way of bleeding, swelling or excessive fluid buildup may also cause additional injuries even weeks after the initial traumatic event. The damage to the vertebra whether due to compression, dislocation or otherwise, will have a corresponding impact on the sensitive nerve fibers and spinal cord in and around the injured region. These nerve fibers can be pinched, partially torn or worse yet, completely severed. Paralysis occurs when the spinal cord is completely severed, but when the tear or obstruction is only partial, the individual will still have some movement and/or sensation below the injury site depending upon the severity of the injury.
Injuries to the spine can have such serious consequences because of the corresponding damage to the function of the central nervous system. The severing, tearing, compression, or pinching of the sensitive nerve fibers and spinal cord has a direct impact on the collection of sensory information and relay of that information to the brain. The injury also has a similar effect on the relay of information to the body’s muscles from the brain directing bodily movement.
Think of it as road construction. The nerves and spinal cord are a lot like a main highway through a busy town. When everything is functioning properly, the information (vehicles) flows freely to and from where it needs to go. When the road is partial damaged (lane closure) the flow of information becomes backlogged and does not flow as freely or as quickly as it normally would. Some information does not get through while other information is delayed. When the road is completely closed down, the information does not pass through at all. Because the sensory gathering and information flow is obstructed, the brain is unable to receive the sensory information and direct the appropriate response.
The most serious consequence of a spinal cord injury is paralysis or inability to move of function and loss of sensation. The degree and location of the paralysis or loss of sensation depends almost entirely on the region of the body that is injured. Paralysis and/or loss of feeling or other senses occur below the injury site because the injury to the nerve fibers blocks or obstructs the relay of information from those regions up to the brain. As a result, information cannot be gathered from the areas of the body below the obstruction and the brain cannot then relay information down to those areas to direct movement. Spinal injuries are most common in the neck (cervical region) and lower back (thoracic and lumbar regions). A severe injury to the cervical region can result in quadriplegia or loss of use of legs and arms as well as impairment of ones ability to breath. Severe injury to the thoracic or lumbar region may result in paraplegia or loss of use of ones legs as well as sexual function and bowel control.
Injury to the central nervous system, the head and brain (traumatic brain injury - TBI, spinal column or nerves often require long rehabilitation and therapy resulting in time off of work, lost wages, and extensive medical bills that can place your financial security at jeopardy regardless of who is at fault for the accident.
Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm's attorneys are available 24 hours a day for emergency situations, and during regular business hours for non-emergency legal advice and assistance - just call us at 1-866-743-6652.
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Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm, PLC
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West Des Moines, IA 50266
Des Moines, Iowa: 515-226-0500
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