Traumatic brain injuries can be among the most debilitating and damaging the human body can endure. They account for millions of hospital visits each year and tens of thousands of deaths in the United States, with over 56,000 people dying from TBI alone or TBI in conjunction with other injuries in 2014 alone.
Caused by bumps, blows, or impacts to the head, a TBI occurs when regular brain function becomes impaired, due to damage to the brain. Cases can range from mild to severe, with a whole host of different symptoms, including states of altered consciousness, memory loss, persistent headaches, insomnia, depression, and more.
Due to the wide range of symptoms and vast differences in severity from one TBI to the next, many people have a somewhat vague understanding of what constitutes a TBI, along with possible causes, signs, and prevention methods.
Read on to find out more
Causes of TBI
There are various potential causes that can lead to TBI. As stated above, a TBI most commonly occurs due to a blow or knock to the head, but this may not always be the case. Sometimes, an impact to another part of the body may result in a TBI as the brain moves around inside the skull and gets damaged. Here are some common causes leading up to a TBI.
- Sports Injuries – Sports injuries account for a large number of TBI cases, and various contact and physical sports such as football, boxing, hockey, and horseriding can all potentially lead to a TBI.
- Motor Vehicle Accidents – Another common cause of TBI is vehicle collisions and accidents. This can occur in all kinds of vehicles, from cars to motorcycles, and even pedestrians are at risk of getting caught up in accidents and suffering a TBI.
- Falls – Falls are a hugely common cause of traumatic brain injuries, especially in the elderly, with older individuals being more likely to fall over while simply navigating their homes, getting in and out of the bath, or walking down the stairs. Every 19 minutes, an elderly American dies from a fall.
Symptoms of TBI
The symptoms of a TBI can vary wildly from case to case. In the most mild cases, symptoms may include a headache, a feeling of nausea, dizziness, or loss of consciousness for a few seconds immediately after the injury. However, in moderate and severe instances of traumatic brain injuries, the symptoms can be much worse.
Physical symptoms in these cases may include loss of consciousness for several hours, persistent and painful headaches, seizures or convulsions, general weakness and fatigue throughout the body, and repetitive vomiting.
There may also be many mental or cognitive symptoms that develop as a result of a TBI too, including memory loss, slurred speech, general confusion, and possibly even an inability to carry out basic tasks and perform simple motor skills.
In some cases, TBI patients will also suffer depression, anxiety, loneliness, and a range of indirect but associated issues that could affect the rest of their lives. Therefore, TBI patients may require counseling in addition to physical treatments, therapies, and medications.
In most cases, TBI occurs due to a result of an unexpected incident or accident, like a vehicle collision or fall, so there aren’t any guaranteed ways to prevent these injuries occurring. However, there are ways to reduce risks. Here are a few examples:
- While playing contact sports, helmets and safety gear should always be worn.
- Helmets and protective equipment should also be used for other physical activities, like cycling.
- Elderly people may want to have stairlifts and handrails installed in their homes to reduce the risk of falls.
- Non-slip mats in the bathtub can also help with lowering the risks of falls.
- Regular exercise can improve flexibility and strength, also reducing the chances of falling.
- When driving, seatbelts should always be worn and distractions kept to a minimum, with hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
- Children should always be supervised when playing games and not allowed to play or walk around in potentially dangerous areas.
A TBI can be a life-changing or life-ending event, and everyone, from young children playing soccer with their friends to elderly people simply trying to take a shower, can be at risk from these injuries. Knowing more about them and taking action to prevent them will help lower your chances of suffering a TBI in the future.