Return to Work After Spinal Cord Injury

spine x-ray

An important factor to both rehabilitation and litigation efforts is the length of time it takes for a spinal cord injury patient to return to work. Currently, the average time to return to work is five years. However, this can vary greatly (research shows between 3 months and 20 years) and depends on several factors.

One important factor is the ability to return to the previous employer. People who have the opportunity to return to their pre-injury job are more likely to do so much faster than those who have to look for a different job. Older age and less education are factors related to a greater amount of time needed to return to work. Both rehabilitation and litigation efforts need to assess the feasibility of further education or the likelihood of returning to work at all. And, although most people who do return to work do so full time, there is the possibility that a patient may only be able to work part time.

In addition, the current economy significantly limits work opportunities for a spinal cord injury patient. Although disability policies may be in place, employers may be less likely to enforce them in light of hard economic times. Employers have been showing a bias towards hiring people who are currently employed or just recently unemployed. This bias may extend to people who have been unemployed for long periods of time due to disability.

Ramakrishnan K, Mazlan M, Julia PE, & Latif LA. Return to work after spinal cord injury: Factors related to time to first job. Spinal Cord. (September 2011).