A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can have many faces. Depending upon where a blow to the head strikes or if a person suffers a closed brain injury or an object penetrates the skull, these factors and more can determine the severity of the injury and how it impacts the person over the course of time. There may be serious complications that affect a person’s everyday life, or only minor symptoms that go away over time. And depending on the force and extent of the initial injury, it’s often hard to tell if a person will fully recover.
Yet, TBI is often misunderstood and unrecognized. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), approximately 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from a traumatic brain injury each year. In addition, 50,000 people die from TBI each year and 85,000 people suffer long term disabilities. Currently, more than 5.3 million people in the U.S. are living with disabilities caused by TBI.
How Does TBI Happen?
A traumatic brain injury can happen at any time. It can be caused by an accident while driving, on the job (particularly if you work near heavy equipment), or even while playing sports or engaging in recreational activities. A traumatic brain injury can be caused by the following:
- Being struck by an object in the head,
- When your head strikes an object (dashboard or the ground in a fall)
- A nearby blast or explosion (more common in military personnel)
How Severe is a TBI?
Most people are unaware of the severity of TBI, and how common it actually is. A football player can sustain a TBI from a hard blow to the head, and even he or she may remain conscious, there may be lingering effects, such as headache, difficulty thinking and memory issues, mood swings, and frustration. Even with a “mild” TBI, the symptoms may be devastating to the individual and the family.
With more severe TBI, such as a penetrating injury caused by a bullet or other object, the effects can be profound. Symptoms can range from severe impairment, loss of cognitive functions, or even comatose states. People who survive severe TBI may have limited use of their arms or legs, difficulty with language or speech, loss of the ability to think, or troubling emotional problems.
To help better understand TBI, we illustrate some of the main causes of TBI, symptoms, treatments, and long-term effects.
If you or someone you know has had a traumatic brain injury, they should receive immediate medical attention following the incident. Follow-up care may also be necessary depending upon the severity of TBI. To learn more about TBI and its short- and long-term effects, please visit the UPMC Center for Brain Injury website or call 1-877-AT-REHAB (28-73422).