Falls Often to Blame in Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injuries Kill or Injure Nearly 2 Million People Annually, CDC Report Shows

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on March 18, 2010

March 18, 2010 -- About 1.7 million people suffer traumatic brain injuries in the United States every year and tens of thousands are fatal, the CDC says.

The new report, based on data from 2002 to 2006, says traumatic brain injuries, also known as TBIs, killed about 52,000 people annually in those years and resulted in 275,000 hospitalizations.

About 1.4 million people, or 80%, were treated and released from an emergency department each year.

According to the report, TBIs contribute to 30.5% of injury-related deaths annually in the U.S.

Most are caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head severe enough to disrupt normal brain function.

According to the report:

  • Falls are the leading cause of TBIs, resulting in 35.2% of the injuries. Rates are highest for children from birth up to age 4, and for adults 75 and older.
  • Children up to age 4 and older adolescents 15-19, along with adults 65 and older, are most likely to suffer a TBI.
  • Road traffic injury is the second leading cause (17.3%), and results in the highest percentage of TBI-related deaths, 31.8%. Rates are highest for adults 20 to 24.
  • TBI rates are higher for males than females in all age groups.

Preventing Traumatic Brain Injuries

Richard C. Hunt, MD, director of the Division for Injury Response at the CDC in Atlanta, says in a news release that the findings can be used to guide strategies to prevent traumatic brain injuries. "We consider TBI to be a major public health problem. The fact that TBI is a contributing factor to nearly a third (30.5%) of all injury-related deaths in the United States is a significant finding," he says.

The report says people with TBIs may have short or long-term consequences that affect their thinking, perception, language, or emotions but which may not be immediately apparent.

CDC says it is working to translate science into educational and outreach programs to help increase awareness and improve prevention of TBIs and also aid in the recognition of such injuries.

It says its educational initiatives provide important information to health care providers, patients, school professionals, sports coaches, parents, teens, and youths on how to prevent and manage traumatic brain injuries.

Traumatic Brain Injuries: Concussions Top the List

The report says TBIs range from mild, characterized by a brief change in mental status or consciousness, to severe, which result in an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia. The majority of TBIs are concussions.

The report also says that, among children from birth to age 14, TBIs on average annually cause:

  • 2,174 deaths
  • 35,136 hospitalizations
  • 473,947 emergency department visits

It also reports that:

  • Adults 75 and older have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalization and death.
  • Boys aged 4 and younger have the highest rates of TBI-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths combined.
  • Between 2002 and 2006, there was a 62% increase in fall-related TBIs seen in emergency departments among children 14 and younger.
  • Among adults 65 and older, TBI-related deaths increased 27% between 2002 and 2006.
  • Assaults cause about 10% of traumatic brain injuries. They accounted for 2.9% of TBIs in children 14 and younger, and 1% in adults 65 and older.

Show Sources


News release, CDC.

Richard Hunt, director, Division for Injury Response, CDC.

CDC: "Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States: Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations and Deaths 2002-2006."

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