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Saving Lives and Protecting People: Preventing Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

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.

In 2010, there were approximately 2.5 million TBI-related emergency department (ED) visits, hospitalizations, or deaths.1

TBIs are a serious public health threat in the United States. However, TBIs can be prevented.

In the United States

watch icon At least 4 TBIs occur every minute.1

wheelchair icon 5.3 million people live with TBI-related disability.2

cost icon TBIs cost Americans $76.5 billion in medical care, rehabilitation, and loss of work every year.3-4

What is a TBI?

A TBI is an injury that disrupts how the brain works.5 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. Common causes of TBI include falls, motor vehicle crashes, sports, firearm injuries, blast (explosion) injuries, abusive head trauma, and being hit in the head by an object.6-8 A concussion is a mild type of TBI.9

Males, Youngest and Oldest Americans At Highest Risk for TBIs

 man icon Males have a higher rate of TBI compared to women.1

Child icon The youngest children and older adults are at highest risk for sustaining fall-related TBIs.6


car crash icon Adolescents and young adults (i.e., persons aged 15–24 years) have the highest rates of motor vehicle–related TBIs.6


man with cane icon Adults aged 65 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.1

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

 Photo: Teenage girl with a soccer ballThe 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:

Protecting People from TBIs

 Photo: Two young boys wearing helmets with bikesWe 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:

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

 Photo: Woman walking with exercise weights

  • 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 TBIs. Our goal is to offer states, communities, youth-serving organizations, coaches, health care providers, and parents timely, accurate information and useful tools and resources to prevent TBIs and improve outcomes. Take action today by learning more about ways you can protect yourself and others from traumatic brain injuries.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Traumatic Brain Injury. [updated 2014 Feb 24; accessed 2014 Mar 6]. Available from:
  2. 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.
  3. Finkelstein EA, Corso PS, Miller TR. The Incidence and Economic Burden of Injuries in the United States. New York (NY): Oxford University Press; 2006.
  4. Coronado VG, McGuire LC, Faul M, Sugerman D, Pearson W. The Epidemiology and Prevention of TBI (in press). 2012
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Traumatic Brain Injury. [updated 2011 Oct 6; accessed 2011 Nov 25]. Available from:
  6. 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:
  7. Champion HR, Holcomb JB, Young LA. Injuries from explosions. Journal of Trauma 2009;66(5):1468–1476.
  8. 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.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Concussion and Mild TBI. [updated 2011 Oct 6; accessed 2011 Nov 25]. Available from: