Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month – Checking In with the NIDILRR SCI Projects

It’s September and the start of National Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Awareness Month! Research and development supporting the independence of people with SCI across the lifespan has been an integral part of NIDILRR-funded efforts throughout its 40+ year history. In previous articles we’ve highlighted the history of the SCI Model System Centers, some of the very cool research in robotic exoskeletons, and the remarkable impact of one of the longest running studies of aging with SCI. NARIC Director Mark Odum also reflected on what SCI research means to him personally, as someone who has lived more than 40 years with SCI.

The latest projects continue this long tradition of innovation and impact, advancing technology and interventions, and learning more about what it means to live, learn, and work independently with a spinal cord injury.

The SCI Model Systems

NIDILRR has funded a long-standing Spinal Cord Injury Model Systems (SCIMS) Program to collect longitudinal data and conduct research on SCI. ACL/NIDILRR just announced the new cohort of the SCIMS program grantees (2021-2026). Each center provides rehabilitation care from point of injury through community reintegration and conducts research on recovery and long-term outcomes after injury. These centers also track participants over time, contributing to the National SCI Database. This database, initiated in 1973, now contains data on more than 34,500 people in the US who have sustained traumatic SCI.

Using Tech to Manage Health and Wellness

Several current projects are harnessing technology, from apps to robotics, to improve long-term health and wellness:

Interventions for Independence

These projects are developing, testing, or expanding interventions to improve health, wellness, community participation, and employment:

Understanding SCI Over the Life Course

A spinal cord injury can have a significant impact on a person’s life. Beyond potential paralysis, people with SCI may also live with pain and higher risk for chronic and secondary conditions such as cardiovascular disease, pressure injuries, and more. These projects seek to understand the full impact of SCI across the life span:

As National SCI Awareness Month continues, we invite you to visit these centers and projects to learn what they do and, for studies that are recruiting participants, how you can be a part of the research. You may also want to explore the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center’s collection of evidence-based information products and learn how to become an SCI Ambassador to share these important resources with your community!

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