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Work related spinal cord injury, Australia 1986–97
  1. P O'Connor
  1. Australian Spinal Cord Injury Register, AIHW National Injury Surveillance Unit, Flinders University Research Centre for Injury Studies, Mark Oliphant Building, Laffer Drive, Bedford Park, South Australia 5042, Australia
  1. Correspondence to:
 Mr O'Connor


Objectives—Little has been published before on the epidemiology and prevention of work related spinal cord injury (SCI). This study is the first national population based epidemiological analysis of this type of injury. It presents that largest case series ever reported.

Setting—The study utilises information from the Australian Spinal Cord Injury Register, which has full coverage of the population.

Methods—All newly incident cases of SCI from 1986 to 1997 were considered.

Results—Work related SCI accounted for about 13% of all traumatic cases of SCI over the period 1986–97. The labour force based incidence rate in Australia averaged four cases per million of population per annum over the period. The rate was highest among those aged 25–34 years (4.9/million) and among farmers (17.0/million). Nearly half of the cases studied received their injury due to a fall. Motor vehicle crashes were also common and vehicle rollover was the predominant crash type. A high proportion of cases did not receive any compensation for their SCI.

Conclusions—Although rare, SCI is one of the most severe and debilitating injuries that can be suffered in the workplace. As there is no cure for SCI, and the level of impairment does not improve substantially for the vast majority of cases even after rehabilitation, it is arguable that primary prevention should receive substantially greater emphasis.

  • occupational injury
  • spinal cord injury
  • epidemiology
  • compensation

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