Being involved in a motor vehicle accident can cause massive amounts of damage. Spinal cord injuries are just one type of damage that may occur, and these can have devastating consequences depending on the severity of the injuries. The Mayo Clinic explains the different types of spinal injuries and their effects.

Damage to different parts of your spinal cord can have vastly different effects. This is often expressed in levels of injuries and completeness. A complete injury is one that causes a total loss of sensation and mobility in the area beneath where the injury occurred. Conversely, a person with an incomplete injury will retain some function and sensation. The level of function retained typically depends on how serious the damage to the spine actually is.

The terms paraplegia and tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, are also used to discuss injury effects. Paraplegia impacts the lower body, including the legs, trunk, and pelvis. Tetraplegia involves the arms and hands as well as the lower body. To determine the full extent of injuries, doctors will perform numerous tests. These tests focus on reflex ability, sensation, movement, bowel and bladder function, and the function of sexual organs. Serious injuries may also cause problems breathing, which can be life-threatening.

While spinal cord injuries have a wide range of causes, they most often result from car accidents. In fact, car accidents make up for more than half of all spinal injuries occurring each year. Falls, assaults, and sports injuries also contribute to these types of injuries. While treatments like physical therapy and surgery can sometimes help patients restore all or some function, in some cases the damage may be permanent.