March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. This is not one of your more festive awareness campaigns, to be sure, but boy, is it timely. Have you heard about the bounty scandal making the rounds among NFL teams? The one where players were paid bonuses for delivering hits that saw their opponents carted off the field or knocked out cold to the turf? The investigation is just underway and should be interesting. There will doubtless be no end to the claims and counterclaims, spin and denials, as well as appeals to ‘that’s the way it has always been done’ and so on. I am not certain what kind of role models we want for our kids, but surely this kind of sportsmanship is not right. In fact, it’s appalling.
TBI, traumatic brain injury, is defined as an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by external force. We list here some of the different sorts of brain injuries. This list is neither exhaustive nor very detailed. It’s just to give you an idea of what’s out there:
- Acquired Brain Injury (an injury to the brain that has occurred after birth).
- Diffuse Axonal Injury (can be caused by shaking or strong rotation of the head).
- Concussion (caused by direct blows to the head, gunshot wounds, violent shaking or force from a whiplash type injury).
- Contusion (a bruise or bleeding on the brain; can be the result of a direct impact to the head).
- Coup-Contrecoup injury (contusions that are both at the site of the impact and on the opposite side of the brain).
- Second Impact Syndrome ‘Recurrent Traumatic Brain Injury‘ (can occur when a person sustains a second traumatic brain injury before a first traumatic brain injury has healed).
- Penetrating injury (the injury occurs from the impact of a knife, bullet or other sharp object that forces hair, skin, bone and fragments from the object into the brain).
- Shaken Baby Syndrome (a violent criminal act that causes traumatic brain injury).
- Locked In Syndrome (a rare neurological condition in which a person cannot physically move any part of the body save the eyes).
- Anoxic brain injury (occurs when the brain does not receive oxygen).
- Hypoxic brain injury (results when the brain receives some, but not enough, oxygen).
- Open head injury (includes a number of skull fractures that occur with open head injuries).
- Closed head injury (when a person receives an impact to the head from an outside force, but the skull does not fracture; for example, with a closed head injury, the brain swells but has no place to expand).
- Falls: 35.2%
- Unknown/other: 21%
- Motor Vehicle: 17.3%
- Struck by/against: 16.5%
- Assault: 10%
- 52,000 people die each year
- 275,000 people are hospitalized each year
- 1,365,000 people are treated and released from an emergency department each year
Among children ages 0 to 14 years, TBI results in an estimated:
Some other TBI statistics:
- 30 minutes = the minimum amount of time a person should be observed after a fall or head blow or severe jolt to the head or/or neck.
- 9 years = the length of time the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center has been collecting data on service men and women who sustained a TBI in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom
- 1-3 months = the amount of time most people need to recover from a mild TBI
- 1.7 million = the estimated number of people who sustain a TBI each year (a good many never seek treatment)
- 30,380 = the service men and women who were diagnosed with a mild TBI in the last year
- 75% of the TBI’s that occur each year are concussions
- 30.5% of all injury-related deaths in the US have TBI as the contributing factor.
- Firearms are the single largest cause of death from TBI.
One quick note: you will see above that Mars, the Roman god of war, is being sensible and wearing a helmet. The March Hare, by contrast, is defying all reason and wearing nothing but some straw. Remember straw and the Three Little Pigs? Not much of a plan!