What is a traumatic brain injury?

Washington residents may have heard a lot about traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, in recent years. From the shooting of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to lawsuits over repeated concussions suffered by NFL players, TBIs have been all over the news.

The extra attention is helpful because the Centers for Disease Control reports that TBIs are a major cause of disability and death in the United States. In 2010, around 2.5 million emergency room visits, hospital stays or deaths were tied to TBIs, and the condition played a part in approximately 30 percent of all injury deaths in the country.

TBIs can occur due to a blow or bump to the head or a penetrating head injury, such as a gunshot wound, that interrupts a person’s normal brain function. TBIs can be mild, meaning a person may feel dizzy or briefly lose consciousness, or severe, meaning a person may be unconscious for a long period of time or experience significant memory loss. Most TBIs reported are mild and are referred to as concussions.

CDC statistics say that men are almost three times more likely than women to die of a TBI, and that people over the age of 65 are most vulnerable to the condition. Falls are the most common cause of TBIs for all people, followed by accidental blows to the head and motor vehicle accidents.

Fortunately, the CDC recommends many ways to prevent traumatic brain injuries, including wearing a seat belt when driving; wearing a helmet when biking, skating or playing contact sports; and removing tripping hazards like rugs and clutter throughout the home. Anyone who suffers a blow to the head, even if it seems minor, should seek immediate medical attention. If someone suffers a TBI due to the negligence of another, they may wish to speak with an attorney about possible options for pursuing compensation from the other party.

Source: CDC.gov, “Injury Prevention and Control: Traumatic Brain Injury,” Sept. 13, 2013

Source: CDC, “What is a TBI?“, October 16, 2014