The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) marked Brain Injury Awareness Month this March. The purpose of Brain Injury Awareness Month is to promote early and equal access to care for all individuals suffering from a brain injury and promote brain injury awareness across the United States. It is important to remember that a brain injury can occur anytime, anywhere, and can happen to anyone.
The BIAA defines a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a “blow, jolt or bump to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.” TBIs frequently require expert trauma care, specialized rehabilitation and lifelong disease management.
Statistics and Facts about Brain Injuries
According to the BIAA, approximately 1.7 million Americans sustain a brain injury each year. In fact, TBI is the leading cause of death and disability among children and young adults, and it is the fourth leading cause of death overall. Indeed, in Texas alone, more than 144,000 Texans sustain a TBI each year. In addition, excluding veterans and military service members, more than 5,700 Texans are permanently disabled every year from a TBI, and approximately 440,000 Texans (2% of the state population) live with a disability caused by a TBI. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) estimates that TBI rates are higher for males than females in every single age group, and children aged 0 to 4, young adults aged 15 to 19, and adults aged 65 years and older sustain more TBIs than other age groups.
Unfortunately, per the Texas Brain Injury Alliance, less than 1 in 20 people with a TBI will receive the rehabilitation they need. At the same time, high incidences of TBIs can be costly for individuals, their families, and the nation as a whole. Specifically, direct medical costs and indirect costs such as lost productivity of TBI totaled an estimated $76.5 billion in the United States in 2000.
While falls are the leading cause of a TBI for individuals 65 and older, transportation-related injuries are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries among those individuals younger than 64. Notably, more than 50% of all motor vehicle accidents resulting in traumatic brain injuries involve alcohol. It is also worth noting here that these numbers do not take into account the incidence of certain types of brain injuries, such as stroke, infectious disease, aneurysms, seizures, and toxic exposure.
Preventing Traumatic Brain Injuries for High Risk Groups
Each year, one out of three adults ages 65 and over falls. These falls can lead to moderate to severe head trauma. To reduce the chance of falling and suffering a TBI, the CDC recommends that older adults:
• Exercise regularly;
• Ask their doctors to review all of their medicine (both prescription and over-the- counter) to identify medicine that may cause drowsiness and/or dizziness;
• Have their eyes checked at least once a year; and
• Make their homes safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding railings, and increasing light.
According to the CDC, approximately 18% of all TBI-related emergency visits involve children ages 0 to 4. In addition, each year emergency departments in the United States treat an estimated 173,285 sports and recreation-related TBIs, including concussions, among children and adolescents. There are many ways to reduce the frequency of traumatic brain injuries among children and young adults, including:
• Buckling your child correctly in the car using a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt;
• Making sure your child wears a helmet when, among other things, riding a bike, motorcycle, snowmobile, scooter, or horse; playing contact sports, skiing, snowboarding, or skateboarding; and batting and running on baseball or softball;
• Safeguarding living areas for your child by installing window guards to keep your child from falling out of windows and using safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs and stair rails;
• Ensuring that the surface on your child’s playground is safe, soft, and well maintained–playground surfaces should be made of wood chips or sand, not dirt or grass.
Although some of these pointers seem self explanatory, it is important keep them in mind. If you or someone you know has suffered from a traumatic brain injury, you should also seek immediate medical attention and follow-up with a brain injury medical specialist or neurologist. If you feel that the brain injury was the result of the neglect, carelessness or negligence of another, contact the San Antonio personal injury lawyers of Carabin and Shaw at 1-800-862-1260 for a free case evaluation.
Injury Prevention & Control: Traumatic Brain Injury, Center for Disease Control and Prevention