There are often misconceptions about traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and who has them; for example, they only happen to elderly people who slip and fall or to professional athletes such as football players. The truth is, a traumatic brain injury could occur at any moment, to a person of any age group or ability and for any number of reasons. TBIs are so prevalent that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that approximately 1.7 million people each year are affected and is the contributing factor in nearly one-third of all injury-related deaths. While the statistics might be scary and may tempt you to keep your children in isolation and safety, it’s best to understand a TBI, how to recognize it, and know what to do if one occurs to someone you love.
TBIs: Aren’t Those for Football Players?
Yes, it’s true that professional athletes have had a long history of traumatic brain injuries, but they are not the only ones who can be affected or fall victim to a TBI. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a traumatic brain injury, by definition, is “a form of acquired brain injury, which occurs when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. It can also occur when the head suddenly and violently hits an object or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue”. Simply stated, the brain becomes damaged and the damage can range from mild to severe to fatal.
While no particular group of individuals is spared from ever having a TBI, the individuals at greatest risk are children aged 0 to 4 years, adults aged 75 and older, and males are more likely than females.
How am I at Risk?
You could have a TBI by simply slipping, falling, and hitting your head, but there are numerous dangerous causes that could put you and others you know, at risk for a traumatic brain injury.
- Falls: Falls account the most common cause of TBI in infants, children and elders. Whether you fall out of bed, slip in the tub, fall down stairs, off of ladders, or fall in your home, your accident could cause a very serious TBI.
- Vehicle collisions: Life threatening things can happen very quickly in the event of a car accident. Even with air bags, seat belts and other safety measures, a driver or passenger can receive severe trauma to their heads. Additionally, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians involved with a vehicle collision are at a higher risk of TBI as they are often less protected.
- Violence: Violence, whether it be weapon related or domestic/child abuse, comes in many vicious and destructive forms. Approximately 10% of TBIs are caused by violence, including gunshot wounds, domestic violence, child abuse, and “Shaken Baby Syndrome”.
- Sports-Related Injuries: People who play or participate in high-impact or extreme sports are at greatest risk of TBIs. Such sports include, but are not limited to, football, boxing, soccer, baseball, skateboarding and snowboarding. Even with the use of helmets, athletes are still at risk.
- Explosive blasts and combat injuries: It wasn’t until recently that researchers started to look at combat-related injuries. It was determined that explosive blasts are a common cause of TBIs and additionally, severe blows of shrapnel or debris to the head, body collisions with an object or penetrating wounds are also causes for TBI in active-duty military personnel.
Traumatic Brain Injuries do not mean “the end”
If someone you know has suffered a TBI, it might be a long road to recovery. Depending on the severity of the traumatic brain injury and how quickly it was assessed and taken care of, will map out a path for recovery. Many individuals who suffer from a mild TBI may have a headache and only require rest and observation at home while others who suffer from severe TBIs may face years of rehabilitation and life may be changed forever.
Traumatic Brain Injuries are not completely preventable, but can be decreased and sometimes eliminated by ensuring proper safety gear and implements such as helmets for children, seatbelts in the car, and hand railings in a home.
You should not live in fear, worrying that you will be the next victim of a TBI. While you should live life to the fullest, live it safely so you can enjoy it!