TBI - What, How, Who

What is Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of such an injury may range from "mild," i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to "severe," i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury. A TBI can result in short or long-term problems with independent function.

Each year, at least 1.5 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury resulting in more than 4,000 individuals sustaining a TBI on a daily basis. One million people are treated and released annually from hospital emergency rooms after sustaining a brain injury. Brain injury claims more than 50,000 lives and leaves more than 80,000 individuals with lifelong disabilities each year. The silent epidemic of brain injury is illustrated best by a 1999 statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - there currently are at least 5.3 million Americans living with a disability as a result of brain injury.

  • Every 21 seconds a brain injury occurs in the United States.
  • Approximately 5.3 million Americans (2% of US population) live with disabilities from brain injuries.
  • Each year ONE MILLION people are treated and released from emergency rooms and 50,000 people die.
  • The cost of traumatic brain injury, in the United States, exceeds $48 BILLION annually.
  • Brain injuries are the #1 killer of persons under the age of 44. They kill more Americans under the age of 34 than all diseases combined.

The leading causes of TBI:

  • Falls (28%);
  • Motor vehicle-traffic crashes (20%);
  • Struck by/against (19%);
  • Assaults (11%);
  • Blasts are a leading cause of TBI for active duty military personnel in war zones.

Who is at risk for a TBI?

Males are about 1.5 times as likely as females to sustain a TBI. The two age groups at highest risk for TBI are 0 to 4 year olds and 15 to 19 year olds. Certain military duties (e.g., paratrooper) increase the risk of sustaining a TBI. African Americans have the highest death rate from TBI.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 5.3 million Americans currently have a long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living as a result of a TBI.

According to one study, about 40% of those hospitalized with a TBI had at least one unmet need for services one year after their injury. The most frequent unmet needs were:

  • Improving memory and problem solving;
  • Managing stress and emotional upsets;
  • Controlling one's temper; and
  • Improving one's job skills.

TBI can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting thinking, sensation, language, and/or emotions. It can also cause epilepsy and increase the risk for conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and other brain disorders that become more prevalent with age.

For more information, contact the Brain Injury Association of America