Traumatic brain injuries: Causes and prevention

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be a life-changing event. TBIs are caused by head injuries that are severe enough to disrupt the way your brain normally functions. TBIs range from mild concussions to extended periods of unconsciousness that can cause memory loss or even death.

TBIs are on the rise, according to the Center for Disease Control. Between 2006 and 2014, deaths, emergency room visits and hospitalizations related to TBI increased 53 percent, and nearly 155 people in the U.S. die each day from a TBI-related injury. With TBIs being so pervasive, it’s important to learn how they’re caused and how to prevent them.

Causes of TBIs by the number

A TBI can happen in almost an instance in which there is a head injury. Adults 75 and older and those who commit self-harm are at the greatest risk to receive a TBI, but a TBI could happen to anyone. The following are the ways in which TBIs most commonly occur:

  • Falls: Falls account for 47 percent of all TBIs. Falls cause a majority of TBIs in infants, children and the elderly.
  • Struck by object: Being struck in the head by an object accounts for 15 percent of all TBIs, and one in five TBIs in children 15 and younger.
  • Car crashes: Fourteen percent of all TBIs are related to motor-vehicle accidents. Car crashes are also the leading cause of TBI deaths.
  • Assaults: Physical assaults cause 9 percent of all TBIs, mainly happening in those between the ages of 15 and 64.
  • Unknown or other: About 15 percent of all TBIs are related to unknown causes or from injuries that don’t easily fall into other categories like electrocutions, animal attacks or explosions.

Preventing TBIs

The best way to stay safe from TBIs is to prevent them.

  • In the car: When in a motor vehicle, always wear a seat belt and never drive drunk or ride with someone who’s been drinking.
  • Wear a helmet: Whenever you ride a bike, motorcycle, snowmobile, scooter, skateboard or all-terrain vehicle, wear a helmet. Also use appropriate headgear for sports like baseball, softball, football, boxing, wrestling, skating and hoseback riding.
  • Prevent falls: For older adults, talk with your doctor about reducing your risk of falling. This could include switching from medications that cause dizziness or drowsiness, installing handrails in your home, and doing exercises to improve leg strength and balance.
  • Make homes kid safe: At home, make sure your children are safe. Install guards to keep children from falling out of windows and use gates at the tops and bottoms of stairways. If your child has an outdoor play area, make sure it has a soft surface like sand or mulch under it.