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What is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?


What is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)? A traumatic brain injury is also called a TBI.  A TBI occurs when an outside physical traumatic force is applied to the head and affects the person’s brain functioning. The physical force can consist of a blow to the head or from a rapid acceleration-deceleration event (like a motor vehicle accident). It is possible for the brain to become injured even if the head has not directly struck or been struck by another object. The brain canbecome injured whether or not the skull is fractured and even without a loss of consciousness.


Leading Causes of TBI
  • Falls – 40.5%
  • Vehicle-related collisions – 14.3%
  • Assaults – 10.7%
  • Struck by/against – 15.5%
  • Unknown – 19 %

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention


Types of TBI and Characteristics
  • Mild: At the time of the injury the person is dazed, confused or loses consciousness, though loss of consciousness does not have to occur.  Loss of consciousness is very brief, usually a few seconds or minutes.  CT and MRI scans of the brain may appear normal.  
  • Moderate: Occurs when loss of consciousness last from a few minutes to a few hours. Confusion lasts from days to weeks.  There can be physical, cognitive and/or behavioral impairments for months or can even be permanent.
  • Severe: Usually results from crushing blows or penetrating wounds to the head. Such injuries crush, rip and shear delicate brain tissue. Can be life threatening.


Effects Depend on type of injury, but can range from changes affecting thinking, sensations, language or emotions to epilepsy, to coma and even death.


Did you know that…
  • In 2010 TBI’s accounted for approximately 2.2 million Emergency Department Visits; 280 thousand hospitalizations and more than 50 thousand deaths in the US.
  • TBI is a contributing factor to a third of all injury–related deaths in the U.S.
  • About 75% of TBIs that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild traumatic brain injury.
  • Direct medical costs and indirect costs of TBI, such as lost productivity, totaled an estimated $60 billion in the United States in 2000.
  • Children aged 0 to 4 years, older adolescents aged 15 to 19 and adults aged 65 and older are most likely to sustain a TBI.
  • In every age group, TBI rates are higher for males than for females.
  • Falls are the leading cause of TBI (40.5%) but Motor vehicle-traffic injury is the leading cause of TBI–related death.


Some tips to reduce risk of TBI
  • Always wear a seat belt in a motor vehicle.
  • Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Wear appropriate head protection while riding a bicycle, skateboard, motorcycle, etc., or when playing any type of contact sports.
  • Preventing TBI in older adults:  Install handrails in bathrooms and in both sides of staircases, remove area rugs, get regular vision checkups, etc.
  • Preventing TBI in children: Install safety gates at the top of the stairway, keep stairs clear of clutter, install window guards to prevent falls, put a nonslip mat in the bathtub or shower, don’t let children play on fire escapes or balconies. A small child should always sit in the back seat of a car and be secured in child safety seats appropriate for his/her size and weight.