The Impact of Traumatic Brain Injury, Part 4: Common Causes of TBI

Photo of car accidentThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consider traumatic brain injury to be a serious public health concern. Every year, around 1.7 million Americans suffer TBI, from mild concussions to those injuries that cause serious, permanent disability. These lifelong effects stem from an event lasting only a split second.

What Are the Most Common Causes of TBI?

  • Slips, trips and falls are by far the most common cause of brain injury, at almost double the rate of the next most prevalent cause. Over one-third (35.2 percent) of brain injuries are caused by falls. In children aged 0 to 14, that percentage is 50 percent. For seniors over 65, the rate is even higher (62 percent).
  • Traffic accidents make up 17.3 percent of TBIs. Though TBIs are less common from accidents than from slips and falls, the potential for death due to traumatic brain injury is highest in this category.
  • Striking/being struck by an object is the third leading cause of TBI, at 16.5 percent. This is the second leading cause of TBI for children aged 0 to 14, at 25 percent.
  • Assault is another common cause of TBI, accounting for 10 percent of U.S. TBIs. For children, thankfully, this number is much lower, at 2.9 percent, and even lower for elderly adults, at 1 percent.
  • Unknown/other causes finish off the chart at 21 percent. How is it that someone would not know what caused a brain injury? Some traumatic brain injuries have effects that might now show up for a long time, so it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly when an injury occurred. This is especially true in cases where there was no overt blow to the head. Some believe that traumatic brain injury can only occur when you hit your head, but this is false. Some TBIs are caused by the brain hitting the inside of the skull, due to things like whiplash. Other brain injuries may be due to rare medical conditions.

The cause of a TBI often correlates with its severity. A person who slips and falls, for example, might not hit his or her head very hard compared to someone who is in a car accident and hits his or her head on the windshield. But no matter the cause or how minor a brain injury seems, all TBIs should be evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible.

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