From Concussions to Debilitating Injuries, TBI is a Concern for Us All

Often, traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be avoided. Yet it remains one of the most common, costly, and disabling injuries in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It says TBIs account for approximately 2.2 million emergency room visits, 280,000 hospitalizations, and 50,000 deaths annually.

TBIs typically occur after one suffers some sort of blow or jolt to the head. It upsets normal  brain function. Severity can range from “mild,” such as a short-term change in mental status or consciousness, to “severe,” producing unconsciousness or memory loss. Most TBIs are mild concussions, though. Many arise from sports injuries to soccer, baseball, basketball, or football players. A statistical breakdown reveals the following:

  • The effects of a TBI depend on the severity of the injury to the victim.
  • TBI is a major cause of death and disability in the United States.
  • Anyone who suffers a head injury/concussion, however mild, needs to see a doctor.

TBI Statistics: What are the Primary Causes?

The CDC also reveals that falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries – accounting for 47% of all TBI-related emergency room visits. Falls tend to occur more frequently to the youngest and oldest age groups:

  • Over half (54%) of all emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths associated with TBI-related injuries caused by falls were suffered by children age 14 and younger.
  • Nearly 4 in 5 (79%) of falls to adults which caused TBI-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths happened to those aged 65 and older.

Head contact with foreign objects is the second leading cause of TBI and accounted for about 15% of reported TBI-related injuries and deaths in 2013. The most affected group was children, as almost one in four (22%) of TBI-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths to those age 15 years or younger happened when their head was struck by – or against – another object.

Motor vehicle crashes were the third-leading cause of TBI-related emergency treatment, hospitalizations, and deaths (14%). But when viewing just the overall mortality rates, TBIs accounted for 19% of all vehicle-related deaths in 2013. Although it was not mentioned in this research, it’s likely that a significant number of vehicle-related TBI fatalities can be associated with injuries to motorcyclists who weren’t wearing a safety helmet.

No matter how one suffers a TBI, varying degrees of acute brain damage will accompany the blow. Victims might suffer a skull fracture, bleeding, or blood clots. But one thing most TBIs have in common is that later the victim can develop pressure inside the skull due to blood seepage into the brain, often accompanied by seizures and, in severe cases, brain swelling.

Signs of Traumatic Brain Injury

TBIs can cause a variety of problems. Which ones and to what degree depends on the overall severity of the injury and where the head-blow occurred. Some of these signs – singularly or combined – may include:

  • Physical symptoms: Victims may experience seizures, headaches, dizziness, or vomiting. Some lose consciousness. At times they experience limited paralysis in their arms or legs, and might not be able to move them at all.
  • Sensory problems: TBIs can affect balance and make victims generally less sensitive to lights, sounds, and touch.
  • Behavior changes: TBI victims can become emotional, angry, depressed, or anxious for no reason. Things that never bothered them before can upset them after the injury.
  • Challenges to thinking skills: Troubles with attention span, memory, and problem-solving are common. The higher the mental skill necessary, the greater the difficulty experienced after a TBI. Learning new skills is also a challenge.
  • Problems with speech and language: Sometimes it can be difficult for TBI victims to speak clearly after their injury, usually due to a condition known as dysarthria, which can also lead to problems swallowing. Understanding what others are saying or problems with reading comprehension may occur. Some find their ability to spell and write are compromised after a head injury.
  • Social communication issues: Difficulty understanding jokes or nonverbal cues can be difficult for TBI victims. Examples might include an inability to understand what someone means when they shrug their shoulders, or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, or interrupting others.

TBIs On-the-Job

Traumatic brain injury was the cause of 22% of all work-related injury fatalities and almost half (46%) of work-related fatal falls between 2003 and 2008.

In a study of data from the Washington State Trauma Registry and the Washington Department of Labor and Industries workers’ compensation claims, nearly 20% of reported work-related injuries involved TBI. Among all of that state’s Department of Labor work-related fatalities, 59.5% involved TBI. Rising work-related fall rates are also believed to contribute to TBI risk.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the rate of falls in private industry increased to 16.6 per 10,000 full-time workers in 2014, a noticeable jump from 15.4 in 2013. In transportation and warehousing, the fall rate increased from 28.3 in 2013 to 30.4 the following year. All of this information points to the greatest single preventative: wearing an approved and well-fitting safety helmet!

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

CTE is a degenerative TBI which is predominantly found in athletes, military veterans, and other activities or occupations that display a history of repetitive blows to the head. A protein called Tau forms clumps that slowly regenerate and spread throughout the brain, killing brain cells. According to the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Emerging evidence suggests that people who have experienced repeated multiple blows to the head, such as athletes and combat veterans, are at higher risk of developing CTE than those who have not suffered repeated concussions.
  • In boxing, for generations what are now referred to as CTE symptoms have been called “punch-drunk syndrome.” The risk of CTE in boxers seems most closely tied to the number of rounds boxed, not the number of knockouts experienced. This suggests that repeated blows to the head that don’t cause unconsciousness may yet increase CTE risk. It is quite possible that Muhammad Ali suffered from CTE, though he was not specifically diagnosed with the affliction.
  • Consensus has not been attained on the full list of CTE symptoms. Possible signs, however – either exclusively or in combination – include memory loss, confusion, lack of concentration, loss of balance and motor skills, and personality changes such as aggression, erratic behavior, and depression.

If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury caused by someone else’s negligence, contact Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law to learn more about your legal options. Fill out our online form or call us toll-free at 1 (800) 444-5000.