Saving Lives and Protecting People:
Preventing Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
In the United States...
At least 3 TBIs occur every minute.1
5.3 million people live with TBI-related disability.6
TBIs cost Americans $76.5 billion in medical care, rehabilitation, and loss of work every year.7,8
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are in the news a lot these days: A football player injured in a tackle. A soldier disabled by an explosion. A teen injured in a motor vehicle crash. An older adult injured in a fall.
Every year, at least 1.7 million TBIs occur either alone or along with other injuries or illnesses.1
TBIs are a serious public health threat in the United States. However, TBIs can be prevented.
What Is A TBI?
A TBI is an injury that disrupts how the brain works.2 TBIs result from a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or a penetration of the skull by a foreign object such as a knife or bullet. The most common causes of TBI are falls, motor vehicle crashes, sports, firearm injuries, blast (explosion) injuries, abusive head trauma, and being hit in the head by an object.1,3,4 A concussion is a mild type of TBI.5
Males, Youngest and Oldest Americans At Highest Risk for TBIs1
Males have the highest rate of TBI.
The youngest children and older adults are at highest risk for sustaining fall-related TBIs.
Adolescents and young adults (i.e., persons aged 15–24 years) have the highest rates of motor vehicle–related TBIs.
Adults aged 75 years or older have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalization and are more likely to die from TBI (either TBI alone or along with other injuries or illnesses) than any other age group.
Putting Science into Action to Reduce Traumatic Brain Injuries
For more than 20 years, CDC’s Injury Center has helped protect Americans from violence and injury threats. We are the nation’s leading authority on violence and injury. We study violence and injuries and research the best ways to prevent them, applying science for real-world solutions to keep people safe, healthy, and productive.
One of the Injury Center’s focus areas is preventing TBIs. We work with partners to raise awareness of TBIs and improve ways to prevent them. We also work to help people better recognize, respond, and recover if a TBI occurs.
Here are just a few examples of our efforts in this focus area:
Identifying and Monitoring TBIs to Inform Prevention
The Injury Center gathers, analyzes, translates, and disseminates data about TBIs. The Injury Center and its partners use this essential information about the incidence of TBIs nationwide to develop prevention activities, identify research and education priorities, and make the case for services for people living with a TBI. Recent publications include:
- Pediatric Abusive Head Trauma: Recommended Definitions for Public Health Surveillance and Research provides standard definitions and data elements to improve the quality and consistency of data on abusive head trauma in children.
- “Nonfatal Traumatic Brain Injuries Related to Sports and Recreation Activities Among Persons ≤19 Years—United States, 2001–2009” (MMWR) shows TBI trends among youth and underscores the need to prevent, recognize, and respond to sports- and recreation-related TBIs.
- Surveillance for Traumatic Brain Injury-Related Deaths—United States, 1997–2007 describes the epidemiology and annual rates of TBI-related deaths over a decade.
- Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States: Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths, 2002–2006 describes the leading causes of TBIs and the groups most affected.
- State Injury Indicators Report tracks TBI hospitalizations and deaths in states and helps the Injury Center to better identify and prevent TBIs.
Protecting People from TBIsWe have reached more than 60 million Americans with messages about TBIs through our Heads Up campaign materials. The following free materials are available to help people recognize and respond to a TBI:
- Heads Up to Clinicians
- Heads Up to Schools: Know Your Concussion ABCs
- Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports
- Heads Up: Concussion in High School Sports
- Heads Up: Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome
- Heads Up: Help Seniors Live Better, Longer: Prevent Brain Injury
Some of our research and education efforts may help improve primary prevention of TBIs, including:
- Motor vehicle safety efforts focused on seat belt use and child passenger safety, impaired driving, use of motorcycle helmets, and teen driver safety.
- Fall reduction strategies aimed at older adults and young children.
- Efforts to prevent child maltreatment and other forms of violence that can result in TBI.
Helping Medical Professionals Improve TBI Treatment
- The Injury Center and the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) developed Updated Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Management Guideline for Adults to improve clinical management and to reduce adverse health outcomes among patients with this condition.
- The Injury Center’s Heads Up to Clinicians: Addressing Concussion in Sports among Kids and Teens, a free online course developed with support from the NFL and CDC Foundation, teaches health care professionals how to recognize and manage concussion in young athletes.
- The Injury Center Board of Scientific Counselors established the Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Guideline Workgroup to develop clinical diagnosis and management guidelines for acute mild TBI among children.
Supporting State TBI Surveillance and Prevention Efforts
- The Injury Center’s Core Violence and Injury Prevention Program funds state health departments to estimate the impact of TBIs and define the groups most affected. The resulting data are a powerful tool to ensure that a state’s TBI prevention activities are guided by the best available science and research.
- Many states have passed “return to play” laws to protect young athletes from the potentially deadly or disabling consequences of returning to play too soon after a TBI. Our Heads Up materials help coaches and administrators comply with these laws. For example, the New York State Concussion Act recommends the use of the Heads Up concussion education course to manage concussions. We are also working with states to evaluate the implementation of policies to ensure they achieve their intended impact.
CDC Works 24/7 to Save Lives and Protect People
CDC’s Injury Center is committed to saving lives, protecting people, and lowering the health and societal costs of violence against children and youth. Our goal is to offer states, youth-serving organizations, parents, and others timely, accurate information and useful tools and resources to foster safe and healthy young people. Take action today by learning more about ways you can protect children and youth from violence!
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- About the Injury Center
- Saving Lives and Protecting People from Injuries and Violence
- Injury Center Focus Areas
- Faul M, Xu L, Wald MM, Coronado VG. Traumatic brain injury in the United States: emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2010. Also see Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How Many People Have TBI? [updated 2011 May 5; accessed 2011 Nov 1]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/statistics.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Traumatic Brain Injury. [updated 2011 Oct 6; accessed 2011 Nov 25]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/TraumaticBrainInjury/index.html
- Champion HR, Holcomb JB, Young LA. Injuries from explosions. Journal of Trauma 2009;66(5):1468–1476.
- Gilchrist J, Thomas KE, Xu L, McGuire LC, Coronado VG. Nonfatal sports and recreation related traumatic brain injuries among children and adolescents treated in emergency departments in the United States, 2001-2009. MMWR 2011: 60(39);1337-1342.
- 5Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Concussion and Mild TBI. [updated 2011 Oct 6; accessed 2011 Nov 25]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/index.html
- Thurman D, Alverson C, Dunn K, Guerrero J, Sniezek J. Traumatic brain injury in the United States: A public health perspective. J Head Trauma Rehabil 1999;14(6):602-615.
- Finkelstein EA, Corso PS, Miller TR. The Incidence and Economic Burden of Injuries in the United States. New York (NY): Oxford University Press; 2006.
- Coronado VG, McGuire LC, Faul M, Sugerman D, Pearson W. The Epidemiology and Prevention of TBI (in press). 2012
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