BACKGROUND: For therapeutics directed to the injured spinal cord, a change in neurological impairment has been proposed as a relevant acute clinical study end point. However, changes in neurological function, even if statistically significant, may not be associated with a functional impact, such as a meaningful improvement in items within the self-care subscore of the Spinal Cord Independence Measure (SCIM). OBJECTIVE: The authors examined the functional significance associated with spontaneously recovering upper-extremity motor function after sensorimotor-complete cervical spinal cord injury (SCI). METHODS: Using the European Multi-center Study about Spinal Cord Injury (EMSCI) data set, a retrospective analysis was undertaken of individuals with cervical sensorimotor-complete SCI (initial motor level, C4-C7). Specifically, changes in upper-extremity motor score (UEMS), motor level, and SCIM (total and self-care subscore) were assessed between approximately 1 and 48 weeks after injury (n = 74). RESULTS: The initial motor level did not significantly influence the total UEMS recovered or number of motor levels recovered. SCIM self-care subscore recovery was significantly greater for those individuals regaining 2 motor levels compared with those recovering only 1 or no motor levels. However, the recovery in the SCIM self-care subscore was not significantly different between individuals recovering only 1 motor level and those individuals who showed no motor-level improvement. CONCLUSIONS: A 2 motor-level improvement indicates a clinically meaningful change and might be considered a primary outcome in acute and subacute interventional trials enrolling individuals with cervical sensorimotor-complete SCI.