Traumatic brain injury is a trauma to the brain that is caused by an external force. A significant brain injury can leave an individual with cognitive impairments that affect perception, memory, communication or judgement, as well as physical impairments that affect things like speech or mobility, and emotional or behavioral impairments that can cause things like anxiety, mood swings, and depression. While the effects of a more mild brain injury may be only temporary, severe injuries can often result in permanent and sometimes disabling damage.
Common Causes of Brain Injuries in America
According to the Brain Injury Association of America, an acquired brain injury is damage to the brain that is “not hereditary, congenital, or degenerative”. The most common causes of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in the United States are:
- Motor Vehicle Accidents: Alarmingly, motor vehicle accidents account for an estimated 44% of all acquired brain injuries that result in fatalities in the United States.
- Falls: Approximately 35.2% of traumatic brain injuries are due to falls. Falls are the leading cause of brain injuries among children between the ages of 0 and 4, as well as for adults aged 75 and older.
- Firearms and Assaults: Sadly, an estimated 10% of brain injuries are caused by violence including firearms and other assaults.
- Sports, Recreation and Other: The remaining acquired brain injuries are related to sports or recreational injuries, unknown causes, and medical events like aneurysms, tumors, strokes, infections and anoxia.
Statistics on Brain Injuries in the United States
Unfortunately, acquired brain injuries account for a significant number of deaths and permanent disabilities annually. Understanding the impact of TBIs can help individuals and agencies alike identify prevention strategies and understand the need for services to support victims of traumatic brain injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Approximately 1.7 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury each year.
- An estimated 52,000 acquired brain injuries result in fatality annually.
- Approximately 1.37 million hospital emergency room visits are due to traumatic brain injuries.
- Nearly 1/3 of all injury related fatalities in the United States are associated with some type of brain injury.
- In 2000 alone, brain injuries resulted in approximately $60 billion in direct medical costs and indirect costs including things like lost wages.
Who Are the Victims?
While TBIs can happen to anyone, of any age or sex, some groups of individuals are more at risk than others. According to the CDC:
- Traumatic brain injury rates are highest among males in every age group. In fact, young males between the ages of 0 and 4 have the highest rates of brain injury related emergency room visits, hospitalizations and fatalities combined, and males are 1.5 times more likely to suffer from a TBI than females.
- Children who are between the ages of 0 and 4, and 15 and 19, and older adults 65 and over are among the most likely to suffer from an acquired brain injury.
- Seniors who are age 75 and up have the highest rates of brain injury related hospitalizations and deaths.
Reducing the Effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries
Significant brain injuries can cause severe impairments to victims, but the injured aren’t the only ones who are affected. Parents, spouses and other family members are often left to care for victims of TBI, which can result in lost wages for not only the victim, but caregivers as well. Additionally, victims and their families often suffer from undue stress, extensive medical bills, and pain and suffering. Fortunately, being aware of the early signs of acquired brain injuries and obtaining prompt medical treatment can sometimes help reduce the after effects. It is important to remember that while some symptoms of TBI may be apparent immediately, others may not appear for days, or even weeks after the injury occurs. Some of the signs of traumatic brain injuries include:
- Loss of consciousness (could be anywhere from a few minutes to several hours) or the inability to waken after sleep
- Headaches, nausea or vomiting that persists
- Confusion, loss of memory or difficulty concentrating
- Impaired motor skills, lack of coordination, numbness or tingling in fingers or toes, difficulty with speech
- Seizures or convulsions
- Dilation of the pupil in one or both eyes
While prevention is obviously the best option when it comes to avoiding the effects of a traumatic brain injury, sometimes a TBI is simply inevitable due to the actions or neglect of others. When another individual or business is responsible for a victim’s suffering, they can be held liable for certain monetary costs including things like reimbursement for lost wages and medical bills, compensation for pain and suffering, and more. Victims and their families should never accept any kind of settlement, however, without consulting with an experienced injury attorney who can help them receive the maximum compensation.