SCI Statistics


Spinal cord injury statistics in Australia

Summary of SCI Statistics

The Spinal Cord Injury, Australia series produced by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) presents national statistics on spinal cord injury (SCI) using data from case registrations to the Australian Spinal Cord Injury Register (ASCIR).

This is a summary of key statistics from the 2017-2018 report*. See the link below to access the full report.

During 2017-18, 318** new cases of SCI were reported to the ASCIR with 131 of these resulting from non-traumatic causes such as vascular disorders, infectious conditions, spinal canal stenosis, disc herniation, myelopathy and cancer.

The total number of new cases incurring SCI from traumatic causes, and over the age of 15, was 187.

Main causes of traumatic injury

  • 86 cases (46%) of traumatic SCI cases were due to land transport crashes involving motor vehicle occupants and unprotected land transport users such as motorcyclists, pedestrians, pedal cyclists and quad bikes.
  • Unprotected land transport users, accounted for nearly 1 in 3 cases (54 cases, 29%) of total traumatic SCI in this reporting period.
  • Falls contributed to approximately 36% of all traumatic SCI cases. Low falls contributed to 14% of cases while high falls accounted for 21%.
  • 7% were water-related with the majority of traumatic SCI cases caused by being dumped by a wave or diving/jumping into shallow water.
  • Football (including rugby codes) was 2 cases (1%).
  • Demographics

    80% of the cases incurring SCI from traumatic causes were male. The largest number of cases reported in 2017-18 were aged 25-34 (37 cases or 21%). Cases aged 55-64 were the next most numerous, with 32 (18%) cases reported.

    Level of Injury

  • 55% of all traumatic SCI cases sustained an injury to the cervical spine. The impairment resulting from this level is referred to as tetraplegia or quadriplegia. The most common level of injury was C4 which accounted for 30% of cervical cases and 11% of the traumatic SCI cases with an identified level of injury.
  • 43% of traumatic SCI cases were categorised as incomplete quadriplegia on discharge. The extent of an incomplete injury is defined by the ASIA Impairment Scale grade of either B (some sensory but no motor function preserved), C or D (some motor function preserved).
  • *Citation: AIHW: Harrison J, O’Brien D and Pointer S 2021. Spinal cord injury, Australia 2017–18, Injury research and statistics series, no. 136, Cat. No. INJCAT 219. Canberra: AIHW.
    **2017-2018 data issues. There are some inconsistencies in the data reported for this year 2017-2018, when compared with previous years, in particular a drop in the number and types of cases reported. Comparison of the patterns of 2017-18 cases with patterns of earlier years’ cases must be interpreted cautiously – See Appendix A for observations.

    Click here for a full copy of the report and to access previous years.

    NB: As at March 2023 these are the most up to date statistics for spinal cord injury in Australia.

    Statistics on how many people in Australia have an SCI vary

    Approximately 20,800+ Australians live with a spinal cord injury

  • Spinal Cord Injury, Australia, 2006-07 by Raymond Cripps, published January 2009, estimates 9,000 approximately
  • Peter New in a 2015 research paper Estimating the Incidence and Prevalence of Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury in Australia estimates a range of 11,300 to over 19,000.
  • What about the Cost of SCI?

  • A 2020 report commissioned by Spinal Cure Australia and icare, and prepared by AlphaBeta Australia titled Spinal Cord Injury in Australia
    state the total cost of spinal cord injury in Australia is estimated to be $3.7bn annually.

  • The Access Economics 2009 report The economic cost of spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury in Australia published in June 2009 has extensive information on the cost of spinal cord injury.
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