Evidence Related to COVID-19 in People Living with Spinal Cord Injury

Recently, the North American Spinal Cord Injury Consortium (NASCIC) published a summary of several studies regarding COVID-19 and people living with spinal cord injury (SCI). Although our community members may have additional concerns due to their rare neuroimmune diagnosis, the findings can still be helpful to our community members who have non-traumatic spinal cord injury. We are still learning the effects that COVID-19 may have on our community, and studies such as the these are helpful in creating a clearer picture. Below is the conclusion of the NASCIC’s summary of the studies on COVID-19 and SCI. The full summary of the NASCIC’s findings, including take home messages and additional resources, can be found here.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the unknown has caused significant impact in the community living with spinal cord injury (SCI). At the same time, there has been much learning, creation, and gathering of knowledge and resources about this disease to begin to understand the SCI community’s health risks in relation to COVID-19. The North American Spinal Cord Injury Consortium (NASCIC) took the initiative to gather and present all current evidence-based information and knowledge about COVID-19 related to those living with SCI. NASCIC collaboratively assessed various resources to provide those living with SCI and the community a thorough understanding of the current situation and, hopefully, quell fears of the unknown related to COVID-19. The evidence that NASCIC has compiled and has included in this report covers:

  • the concerns about the pandemic from people with SCI,
  • case studies with SCI who have contracted COVID-19, and
  • impacts of nationwide lockdowns due to COVID-19.

NASCIC additionally highlights preliminary best-practices people with SCI can take to stay safe and healthy (physically, mentally, and emotionally) as they live through the pandemic. Research involving COVID-19 and its effect on the community are on-going and NASCIC hopes that this report will help bring awareness and open doors for further conversation and advocacy about the concerns/needs of the SCI community to researchers, policy makers, healthcare providers, and other stakeholders with interest in spinal injury. This report and take-home points will be updated as new, peer-reviewed evidence becomes available.

Based on the review presented of the evidence available at the time of publishing, it is fair to say that so far, the SCI community does not necessarily experience more severe symptoms and mortality if COVID-19 is contracted compared to the rest of the population.

However, due to the SCI community’s need for personal care, they do face an added risk in being exposed to the virus. Personal care attendants may not be able to socially distance themselves when assisting individuals, and thus create an added risk in transmitting or contracting the virus. This added risk can be reduced through appropriate usage of personal protective equipment (PPE). Hand washing and personal safety with PPE are an absolute priority, as it can help lower risk of spread. Lastly, like everyone experiencing the pandemic, mental and emotional health are impacted. Hence, it is a great time to virtually connect with one’s family and friends and find new support groups online to help cope with isolation.

Further conversation and continuous advocacy for the SCI community is NASCIC’s focus during this unprecedented time. NASCIC encourages meaningful engagement and further education as we endure this pandemic. We look forward to sharing the results of ongoing and future studies that are being conducted that address the impact of COVID-19 on the SCI community.”

North American Spinal Cord Injury Consortium, Evidence Related to COVID-19 in People Living With Spinal Injury. Niagara Falls, NY. 2020.