SCI Statistics


Spinal cord injury statistics in Australia

Summary of SCI Statistics

The Spinal Cord Injury, Australia series produced by the Australian Institute of Heath 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 2016-2017 report*. See the link below to access the full report.

During 2016-17, 374 new cases of SCI were reported to the ASCIR with 147 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 227.

Main causes of traumatic injury

  • 39% of traumatic SCI cases were due to land transport crashes involving motor vehicle occupants and unprotected land transport users such as motor cyclists, pedestrians, pedal cyclists and quad bikes.
  • Motorcycle riders accounted for 36% of land transport related SCI cases and motor vehicle drivers accounted for 21%.
  • Falls contributed to approximately 39% of all traumatic SCI cases. Low falls contributed to 20% of cases while high falls accounted for 19%.
  • 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 4% and 4 of the 7 cases were sustained during a game of rugby.
  • Horse related injuries made up for 4% of SCI cases.
  • Struck by a heavy falling object was accountable for 3% of SCI cases.
  • Demographics

    80% of the cases incurring SCI from traumatic causes were male. The largest number of cases reported in 2016-17 were aged 45-54 (40 cases or 18%). Cases aged 15-24 and 25-34 were the next most numerous, with 39 cases reported for each of these age groups.

    Level of Injury

  • 52% 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 29% of cervical cases and 15% of the traumatic SCI cases with an identified level of injury.
  • 40% 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: Tovell, A 2020. Spinal cord injury, Australia 2016–17, Injury research and statistics series, no. 129, Cat. No. INJCAT 209. Canberra: AIHW.

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

    NB: As at February 2020 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 15,000+ 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?

  • Spinal Cure Australia state the total cost of spinal cord injury in Australia is estimated to be $2 billion 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.
  • Further Information