The overall goal of the Swiss Spinal Cord Injury Cohort Study (SwiSCI) is to gain a better understanding of how to support functioning, health maintenance, and quality-of-life of persons with spinal cord injury (SCI) along the continuum of care, in the community, and along their life span. The purpose of this study was to present the SwiSCI study design. SwiSCI is composed of three complementary pathways and will include Swiss persons 16 yrs or older who have diagnoses of traumatic or nontraumatic SCI. Pathway 1 is a retrospective study of medical files of patients admitted to one of the collaborating SCI centers between 2005 and 2009. Pathway 2 is a nationwide survey of persons with chronic SCI. Pathway 3 is an inception cohort study including persons with newly acquired SCI. SwiSCI is conducted in collaboration with the Swiss Paraplegic Association and the major specialized rehabilitation centers in Switzerland. Measurement instruments that are to be used in Pathway 2 and 3 cover body structures and functions, activities, participation, life satisfaction, and personal and environmental factors. SwiSCI is a prospective cohort study that will contribute to a comprehensive understanding of the lived experience of persons with SCI.