According to the Mayo Clinic, every year about 11,000 Americans experience a spinal cord injury (SCI). Spinal cord injuries are among the most traumatic injuries and typically occur following automobile accidents, construction accidents, falls, or acts of violence.
These injuries disable by severe decompression, vertebral splintering (where pieces of the vertebrae chip off due to severe impact and slice into sections of the spinal cord), or in rare cases, actually severing the spinal cord. The seriousness of spinal cord injury ranges from temporary paralysis to permanent paraplegia or quadriplegia. Regardless of the severity of the injury, fitness plays a critical role in recovering from and living with a spinal cord injury.
Post-discharge from traditional therapy is the time to begin a physical fitness routine. Depending on the nature of spinal cord injury, you will need to structure a fitness routine compatible with your abilities (paraplegic, quadriplegic, or hemiplegic) and your personality (team player or lone sportsman). The important thing to remember is to develop this routine as quickly as possible after the injury, as it will become an integral part of your physical rehabilitation as well as emotional recovery.
General Fitness Tips for SCI Victims
One important fitness aspect is building cardiovascular endurance and strength training. If your mode of transportation is crutches or a walker, you may also like to add some gentle plyometric movements into your fitness regimen once your physician or physical therapist gives the approval to do so. This will help you to improve your balance and stability as you recover.
Fitness Equipment for SCI Victims
Special fitness equipment is available to spinal cord injury victims. Handbikes and adaptive gym equipment are beneficial to those with spinal cord injuries, particularly those with paraplegia and hemiplegia. The “Equalizer” and “Uppertone Gym” are adapted for chair-bound individuals with limited fine motor abilities. Free weights, elastic tubing, and weights with Velcro-style fasteners to wrap around wrists and ankles are excellent and portable pieces of equipment for building endurance and strength training.
Many fitness facilities now employ individuals with specialized training through ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) or ISSA (International Sports Science Association) which is specific to neurological and spine injury care. These individuals have been put through rigorous training on proper postural alignment following spinal cord or neurologic injury. Have a Support Team
You will also find it helpful to involve these members of your health improvement team in your physical fitness regimen. If you are using a hand bike, free weights, or bench weights, it is always a good idea to have a “cheering section” of supportive friends or family that can help you beyond plateaus or fatigue thresholds.
Financial Protection and Compensation
Victims of spinal cord injury should seek the assistance of a qualified spinal cord injury lawyer right away to assist with financial liability concerns. Spinal cord injury lawyers are specialists in completing the complex injury claims filing process. Having an experienced attorney who can prove his success in similar cases is important because he can assume much of the burden and stress of dealing with compensation for injuries, allowing victims and their families to focus on rehabilitation.