Among the many changes we all experience as we age is a shift in the risk
of suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and how such injuries occur.
A TBI can be caused by any kind of blow, jolt or penetrating injury to
the head that damages the brain. Those that are not fatal can cause impaired
thinking or memory, movement, sensation (e.g., vision or hearing), personality
changes or depression.
Those of us who deal with
personal injuries on a daily basis are well aware that falls are the leading way that people
suffer a brain injury. The
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says falls account for more than 40 percent of all TBIs and about
30 percent of all injury deaths.
A new report from
Hawaii Public Radio suggests that the ways we get hurt and suffer a TBI changes from childhood
through adulthood and into our later years.
According to recently published research in the
New England Journal of Medicine by members of the
Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network, young children typically suffer a head injury from falling while teenagers
who are steadier on their feet are more likely to suffer a head injury
from a sports injury, fight or car accident.
The top three causes of head injuries for children up to the age of 2 were
all fall-related: falls from a height, falls down the stairs, or falls
from standing, walking or running.
From age 2 to 12, the top causes of TBI were falls from a height, falls
from standing, walking or running, and being accidentally hit on the head.
But by age 13, the risk shifts. For young people in their teens, a brain
injury is most likely to occur as the consequence of a sports injury (i.e.,
concussion), an assault or a motor vehicle accident. Teens can reduce
their risk of head injury by wearing a seat belt when in a car and strapping
on a helmet when riding a bicycle.
Sports- and recreation-related concussions or TBIs were so prevalent from
2001 to 2009 that they accounted for 57 percent of all TBIs among children
up to age 19, the CDC says.
Fortunately, as we have become more aware of concussions in sports,
public policy has changed, and between 2009 and 2013, all 50 states and the District of Columbia,
passed "Return to Play" laws pertaining to concussions in sports
for youth and/or high school athletes.
Beyond the pediatricians' work, the CDC reports that among adults up
to age 45 the most frequent causes of TBI are motor vehicle accidents,
assaults and falls.
Often when we think of TBI among adults, we think of members of our armed
Military.com report about TBI calls the injury the "signature wound of the Iraq
and Afghanistan wars" and says it is commonly caused by "by
explosive devices, falls and vehicle or motorcycle accidents."
But as we get older, the cause of TBIs shifts again and the risk increases.
Falls are the leading cause of TBI-related hospitalizations among adults
45 years and older, according to the CDC, and the leading cause of death
for persons 65 years or older.
People aged 65 and older have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalizations
and fatal accidents. More than two-thirds (81 percent) of TBIs in adults
aged 65 and older are caused by falls.
Caregivers of older adults can help protect their loved ones by learning
to recognize signs of traumatic brain injury after a fall and taking the
Here are five symptoms of traumatic brain injury:
Headache that won't go away and gets worse
Nausea or vomiting
Dilation of one or both pupils
Slowness in thinking, slurred speech or reading
Increased confusion or agitation
Older adults who take blood thinners should see a doctor immediately if
they suffer a fall or bump on the head.
Brain Injury Resource Center for more information about living with brain injury.