Did you know that according to data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) there were more than 1.7 million Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) in the United States alone in 2012? While many believe that the largest number of this type of injury occurs during automobile accidents, the highest number of serious TBI’s are sustained from falls which can occur at the workplace or at home. Automotive accident related injuries only account for 17.3% of TBI’s each year according to the CDC which is a statistic that some may find surprising.
How do these injuries occur? According to reports, the majority of falls occur with patients who are aged 65 and older with 61% of American adults experiencing an instance of a mild to moderate TBI. Children aged 0-14 years represent 50% of new Traumatic Brain Injury cases each year. Whether at home or in the workplace, at school or in the playground the impact of a significant brain injury can create very serious implications for the individual in terms of development, mobility and independence and employability.
Diagnosing the Severity
A simple concussion by medical diagnoses is a form of Traumatic Brain Injury. Individuals who are active or children who play sports can receive a mild to moderate concussion easily. Measuring the cognitive cost of the injury is essential to arriving at an estimate of the loss of livelihood or functionality directly due to the injury and the legal liability for negligence leading to the infliction of the injury on the client.
There are three types of TBI according to the Brain Injury Association of America (BIA).
Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
This type of injury can be sustained by either blunt force to the head or by rapid acceleration or deceleration (sudden starting or stopping motions also known as whiplash). When someone presents with Mild (TBI) treatment includes observation for transient confusion, loss of consciousness, memory impairment and other signs in adults. With infants and children, symptoms of nausea and lethargy, as well as irritability may be present and seizures may also occur.
Moderate to Severe Traumatic Brain Injury
When the injury to the brain is more significant, symptoms of the impairment are more pronounced. Typically this type of injury is accompanied with evidence of blunt force trauma to the head and neck and can be caused by a fall or significant impact against a solid object. Moderate to severe traumatic brain injury can be accompanied by a loss of consciousness followed by a period of confusion that may last from days to several weeks or months.
A brain injury deemed to be moderate to severe can create lasting emotional and physical impairments that can include speech, language and sensory weakness. Slower or laboured cognitive processing skills can be part of the clinical picture as well as attention, and significant short and long term memory impairments. Evaluation of the moderate to severe levels of Traumatic Brain Injury requires a neurosurgical evaluation to estimate the scope of impact as well as the potential for patient recovery.
Short and Long Term Consequences
Life for a patient after a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can be difficult. Frequently with even mild to moderates cases of injury, there is an impairment that can render the patient unemployable in their previous field or vocation. Brain injuries can dramatically impact fine motor skills making some hand eye articulating requirements very difficult for recovering patients. With cognitive processing times impacted, certain patients are not able to return to their pre-injury employment at all, and must seek vocational rehabilitation in another field (if possible) to replace their income and livelihood.
In the short term, the injured may require extensive therapies and other clinical supports for appropriate rehabilitation. Physiotherapy is often required as are psychological supports and counselling to address anger and other emotional symptoms typically present post-injury. The road to recovery for patients after a Traumatic Brain Injury is a long and medically expensive one, with some patients only restoring a portion of their pre-injury state of functionality.
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) are a frequent occurrence in the United States. We have shared a 2013 Infographic on the subject and encourage you to share this information to increase awareness of Traumatic Brain Injuries and education on prevention before they occur.