Traumatic Brain Injury

What is traumatic brain injury?

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) defines a traumatic brain injury (TBI) “as a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.” TBIs can range in severity from “mild” (brief changes in mental status or consciousness) to “severe” (extended periods of unconsciousness or amnesia). TBIs are a contributing factor in approximately 30% of all injury-related deaths in the United States ( nearly 50,000 per year). TBIs affect not only victims and their families, but society as a whole. The estimated economic cost of TBI for 2010 was $76.5 billion.

What causes traumatic brain injury?

 In 2013, falls were the leading cause of TBI, followed by being struck by or against an object and motor vehicle accidents. Sports related injuries are common among younger people. Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) is considered a form of abusive head trauma (AHT) and inflicted traumatic brain injury (ITBI).

What are the danger signs of traumatic brain injury?

According to the CDC, immediate medical attention should be sought if any of the following are noticed in adults following a bump, jolt or blow to the head:

  • Persistent and worsening headache
  • Weakness, numbness or decreased coordination
  • Repeated nausea or vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Very drowsy or cannot wake up
  • Having one pupil larger than the other
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Inability to recognize people or places
  • Increasing confusion, restlessness or agitation
  • Unusual behavior
  • Loss of consciousness

Children should be taken to the emergency room following a bump, blow or jolt to the head if:

  • They exhibit any of the danger signs for adults
  • They will not stop crying and are inconsolable
  • They will not nurse or eat

What are the effects of traumatic brain injury?

TBIs may cause a wide variety of health issues, including effects on cognitive function (attention and memory), motor function (weakness, impaired coordination, impaired balance), sensation (hearing, vision, perception and touch) and emotion (depression, anxiety, aggression, impulse control and personality changes). Severe TBI “can affect all aspects of an individual’s life. … includ[ing] relationships with family and friends, … ability to work or be employed, do household tasks, drive, and/or participate in other activities of daily living.”  

What can we do to avoid traumatic brain injuries?

Many things can be done to reduce the risk of TBI, such as:

  • Securing children in cars with safety seats, booster seats, or seat belts depending on their age and size.
  • Wearing seat belts when driving or riding.
  • Never driving when under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Wearing helmets when biking, skiing, skating, riding horses or playing contact sports.
  • Reducing the risk of falls by eliminating tripping hazards, using nonslip mats in bathtubs and showers, installing  grab bars in bath rooms and handrails on stairs, and improving lighting in the home.
  • installing window guards on  windows and safety gates on stairs in homes with young children.
  • Regularly exercising to maintain lower body strength and balance, especially for seniors.
  • Using shock absorbing material on playgrounds.

What can I do to feel better after a traumatic brain injury?

The CDC offers a number of tips for people recovering from TBIs such as:

  • Getting plenty of sleep and rest
  • Avoiding activities which are physically demanding
  • Avoiding alcoholic beverages until your doctor says you are well enough
  • Writing things down if you have trouble remembering
  • Consulting with friends and family before making important decisions
  • Avoiding sustained computer use

Source: CDC,

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