March is Traumatic Brain Injury awareness month. Let’s start with some statistics on TBI’s according to BrainTrauma.org:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death and disability in children and adults from ages 1 to 44.
- Brain injuries are most often caused by motor vehicle crashes, sports injuries, or simple falls on the playground, at work or in the home.
- Every year, approximately 52,000 deaths occur from traumatic brain injury.
- An estimated 1.5 million head injuries occur every year in the United States emergency rooms.
- An estimated 1.6 million to 3.8 million sports-related TBIs occur each year.
- At least 5.3 million Americans, 2 percent of the U.S. population, currently live with disabilities resulting from TBI.
- Moderate & severe head injury (respectively) is associated with a 2.3 and 4.5 times increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Males are about twice as likely as females to experience a TBI.
- Exposures to blasts are a leading cause of TBI among active duty military personnel in war zones.
- Veterans’ advocates believe that between 10 and 20 percent of Iraq veterans, or 150,000 and 300,000 service members have some level of TBI.
- 30 percent of soldiers admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center have been diagnosed as having had a TBI.
- The number of people with TBI who are not seen in an emergency department or who receive no care is unknown.
A Traumatic Brain Injury, often referred to as TBI, is when an injury occurs to the brain and is typically not outwardly visible. A TBI is very different than other bodily injuries due to the fact that the brain is responsible for both mental and physical functioning, and damage to the brain can result in impaired functioning in almost all areas of life. Brain injuries also heal differently than other injuries; someone may not even know that they have suffered a brain injury and symptoms and treatment can vary depending on the situation because no two brains are the same and the consequences of the injury can be complex.
The largest part of the brain, the frontal lobe, is commonly injured in a TBI. The frontal lobe is responsible for impulse control, problem-solving and attention and damage to this brain area can result in limited self-control, increased irritability, low concentration and sometimes memory problems.
Someone who suffers a TBI may also suffer from symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A military veteran who suffered a TBI due to an automobile accident or an explosion may also experience symptoms of depression, fear, worry and can have nightmares and flashbacks related to the traumatic event. The consequences of a TBI and PTSD can make completing daily tasks and responsibilities difficult due to changes in behavior, mental functioning and even personality changes.
Treatment for a TBI includes a comprehensive approach of mental health, neurological and physical rehabilitation. Recovering from a TBI can be quite difficult and life-changing; however the road to recovery for many includes love, strength, support, perseverance and commitment.
To learn more, visit the Brain Injury Association of America at www.biausa.org.
By: Melissa Major, MHC-LP