Background on Traumatic Brain Injury
According to The Brain Injury Association of America, traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of such an injury may range from “mild,” ie, a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” ie, an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury. A TBI can result in short- or long-term problems with independent function.
Brain Injury Facts
- 1.4 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the United States each year; 50,000 die, 235,000 are hospitalized, and an additional 1.1 million are treated by an emergency department (Centers for Disease Control – CDC ).
- A brain injury occurs every 23 seconds in the U.S. (BIA-USA, 2006).
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is more prevalent in the U.S. than breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries (CDC, 2006).
- 5.3 million Americans are currently living with disabilities resulting from TBI, and 80,000-90,000 join their ranks each year (CDC).
- Brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability for people between the ages of 15 and 24 (CDC).
- The cost of TBI in the U.S. is estimated to be $60 billion each year (CDC).
- Falls and vehicle crashes are the leading causes of brain injury.
- Every year more than 37,000 Massachusetts residents go to the emergency room because of a brain injury (Massachusetts Department of Public Health Report, 2006).
What are the leading causes of TBI?
- Falls (28%)
- Motor vehicle/traffic accidents (20%)
- Struck by/against (19%)
- Assaults (11%)
For active-duty military personnel in war zones, blasts are also a leading cause of TBI. Certain military duties (eg, paratrooper) increase the risk of sustaining a TBI.
Who is at highest risk of TBI?
- Males are about 1.5 times as likely as females to sustain a TBI.
- The two age groups at highest risk of TBI are children from birth to 4 years old and adolescents 15-19 years old.
- Military personnel
- African Americans have the highest death rate from TBI.
What are the long-term consequences of TBI?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 5.3 million Americans currently have a long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living as a result of TBI. According to one study, about 40% of those hospitalized with TBI had at least one unmet need for services one year after their injury. The most frequent unmet needs were:
- Improving memory and problem solving
- Managing stress and emotional upsets
- Controlling one’s temper
- Improving one’s job skills
Prevention is the only Cure
- Seat belts are 57 percent effective in preventing traumatic and fatal brain injuries
- Properly fitted helmets reduce the risk of brain injuries by 88 percent
- Over half of all brain injuries are related to alcohol and drug abuse
- More than one-third of teen driver fatalities involve speeding.
Fact Sheet on Helmet Safety
- Head injuries suffered as a result of not wearing a helmet cause three-quarters of about 900 bicycle deaths each year (National Highway Transportation Safety Association, 2006).
- Properly fitted bike helmets could reduce the risk of bike-related brain injuries by 88% (Center for Disease Control, 2006).
- Bike helmets could prevent an estimated 75% of bike-related fatalities and 45,000 head injuries to children each year (Center for Disease Control, 2006).
- Only 1 out of 5 cyclists, ages 5 to 14, regularly wears a helmet (Center for Disease Control, 2006).
- Greater than 75% of persons treated in emergency departments for bicycle-related head injury are less than 15 years of age (Center for Disease Control, 2006).
- 1 in 8 of the cyclists with reported injuries has a brain injury (Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, 2006).
- Direct costs of cyclists’ injuries due to not using helmets are estimated at $81 million each year (Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, 2006).
IT’S “Unthinkable” NOT TO WEAR A HELMET
“Unfortunately, brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability for American youth under age twenty-five and projected to be the number one health problem in the world by 2020. The department of defense estimates that 20 percent of all returning veterans will return from Iraq and Afghanistan with TBI. The causes of acquired brain injury such as stroke, brain tumors, substance abuse, poisoning, infection, and lack of oxygen also affect millions of people. It is sad to say, but at some point I think everyone may come to know someone who has sustained a brain injury as it also creeps into many motorcycles, cars, boating, hunting and skiing outings, and countless sports arenas around the world. It usually leaves the “lucky” survivors with an existence of devastating disabilities and families mangled. It can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting motor skills, thinking, sensation, language, and/or emotions. It can also cause epilepsy and increase the risk for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain disorders that become more prevalent with age. Traumatic brain injury can change the core of who a person is—It is just UNTHINKABLE!”