A brain injury may be the worst injury a person can suffer. Unlike most other body tissue, the brain can’t regenerate its cells. Once brain cells are damaged or connections between them are broken, the work they perform can be permanently lost or seriously compromised. Someone who experiences a brain injury may have permanent problems with his or her movement, senses, emotions or cognitive abilities, or even changes in personality. Even milder forms of brain injury, such as concussions, can cause problems that last a lifetime.
There are two types of brain injuries: traumatic brain injuries (commonly referred to as “TBIs”) and acquired brain injuries. TBIs are typically caused by a sudden, violent blow to the head—such as a car passenger’s head hitting the inside of the car during a crash or a fall on ice where the head hits the ground. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 1.4 million Americans sustain some kind of TBI every year, with about 235,000 requiring hospitalization and 50,000 more dying.
Falls and motor vehicle crashes are the most common causes of brain injuries, but these injuries can be caused by any blow to the head, including sports injuries and gunshot wounds. Thousands more people sustain acquired brain injuries because of disease, stroke, toxins or oxygen deprivation (hypoxia or anoxia), sometimes due to medical malpractice.
About 5.3 million people in the United States—2% of our population—need permanent, daily help with everyday tasks because of a brain injury.
TBIs can be mild (such as a concussion), moderate or severe (which can be life threatening and require long-term treatment). Mild TBIs heal more quickly, with the majority of symptoms subsiding within minutes, hours or days.
MODERATE TO SEVERE TBIS AND ACQUIRED BRAIN INJURIES ARE MORE SERIOUS AND CAN HAVE LONG-TERM EFFECTS ON:
- Cognitive functions, such as attention and memory
- Motor functions, such as coordination and balance
- Sensory processing, such as sight and hearing
- Emotional and personality changes
MOREOVER, BRAIN INJURIES MAY INCLUDE PHYSICAL EFFECTS, SUCH AS:
- Epilepsy and seizure
- Chronic pain
- Speech problems
- Inappropriate sexual behavior