Brain injury is unpredictable in its consequences. Brain injury affects who we are, the way we think, act, and feel. It can change everything about us in a matter of seconds. The most important things to remember:
- A person with a brain injury is a person first
- No two brain injuries are exactly the same
- The effects of a brain injury are complex and vary greatly from person to person
- The effects of a brain injury depend on such factors as cause, location, and severity
- Motor Vehicle Accidents
- Struck By/Against Events
1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention, the leading causes of TBI are:
- Falls (35.2%)
- Motor vehicle-traffic crashes (17.3%)
- Struck by/against events (16.5%) • Assaults (10%)
- Assaults (10%)
A Healthy Brain
To understand what happens when the brain is injured, it is important to realize what a healthy brain is made of and what it does. The brain is enclosed inside the skull. The skull acts as a protective covering for the soft brain. The brain is made of neurons (nerve cells). The neurons form tracts that route throughout the brain. These nerve tracts carry messages to various parts of the brain. The brain uses these messages to perform functions. The functions include coordinating our body’s systems, such as breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and metabolism; thought processing; body movements; personality; behavior; and the senses, such as vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.
Each part of the brain serves a specific function and links with other parts of the brain to form more complex functions. All parts of the brain need to be working well in order for the brain to work well. Even “minor” or “mild” injuries to the brain can significantly disrupt the brain’s ability to function.
An Injured Brain
When a brain injury occurs, the functions of the neurons, nerve tracts, or sections of the brain can be affected. If the neurons and nerve tracts are affected, they can be unable or have difficulty carrying the messages that tell the brain what to do. This can change the way a person thinks, acts, feels, and moves the body. Brain injury can also change the complex internal functions of the body, such as regulating body temperature; blood pressure; bowel and bladder control. These changes can be temporary or permanent. They may cause impairment or a complete inability to perform a function.
Each year, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) contribute to a substantial number of deaths and cases of permanent disability. A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. The severity of a TBI may range from “mild” to “severe”.
Data is critical to understanding the impact of this important public health problem. This information can help inform TBI prevention strategies, identify research and education priorities, and support the need for services among those living with a TBI.
* There is no estimate for the number of people with non-fatal TBI seen outside of an emergency department or hospital or who receive no care at all