Traumatic Brain Injury Prevention

Image of a doctor reviewing scans of a person's brain

Traumatic brain injury (TBI), including concussion, is a serious public health problem in the United States. TBI is a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or penetrating head injury. Everyone is at risk for a TBI, especially children and older adults. In 2014, there were approximately 2.87 million TBI-related emergency department (ED) visits, hospitalizations, and deaths in the United States.

CDC’s National Center for Injury and Violence Prevention (NCIPC) provides critical funding and technical assistance to 23 state health departments through its Core State Violence and Injury Prevention Program (Core SVIPP). The program helps strengthen state capacity to collect and use data to better understand the local injury environment and challenges, plan injury prevention efforts, and carry out and evaluate life-saving interventions for residents.

Putting Strategies to Work to Prevent Traumatic Brain Injury

One of the best ways states can enhance TBI prevention is to identify and implement evidence-based policies, practices, and programs. Examples of strategies used by states funded through CDC’s Core SVIPP program include:

  • Essentials for Childhood: This program raises awareness and commitment to promote safe, stable, nurturing relationships to prevent child abuse.
  • Abusive Head Trauma/Shaken Baby Prevention, Nurse-Family Partnership: Home visiting programs provide caregiver support and training about child health and development to low-income, first-time mothers.
  • Return to Learn/Return to Play: This initiative engages school officials, coaches, parents, and health care providers to ensure that students with concussions have time to recover and gradually return to their regular activities in a safe manner.
  • CDC Pediatric Mild TBI (mTBI) Guideline: An evidence-based guideline for healthcare providers that includes the latest clinical recommendations on pediatric mild TBI diagnosis, prognosis, management and treatment.
  • HEADS UP Campaign: A series of educational initiatives that protect kids and teens by raising awareness and informing action to improve prevention, recognition, and response to concussion and other serious TBIs.
States in Action

Tennessee and Nebraska are using their Core SVIPP funding to protect residents from TBI and its potentially devastating effects.

Tennessee Launches Safe Stars Initiative

The Tennessee Department of Health, in partnership with 33 sports and health organizations, launched the free and voluntary Safe Stars initiativeexternal icon. This initiative recognizes Tennessee youth sport programs that meet high standards for athlete safety. Safe Stars consists of three levels of recognition: Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Each level requires that the sports program meet certain safety standards determined by a team of health professionals. To date, 31programs have been gold star certified, and several additional programs are currently applying. The Safe Stars initiative has increased attention on the state’s 2017 Return to Learn/Play Guideline. This guideline seeks to help athletes have a good recovery and get back to regular activities, such as school and play, safely.

Nebraska Leverages Funding for TBI Through a Domestic Violence Screening Program

Using a block grant, the Nebraska Core SVIPP team and the Brain Injury Alliance (BIA) of Nebraska created a pilot TBI screening program in four domestic violence shelters across the state. Over 60% of women screened through this program were identified as having had a TBI. Using this information, the BIA was able to secure additional funding from the Women Investing in Nebraska collective. In 2018, the Nebraska Core SVIPP and BIA provided training on how to conduct TBI screening to two additional domestic violence prevention programs. They also conducted eight trainings on how to conduct TBI screenings with staff from the legal system, probation offices, health clinics, and substance abuse/mental health centers, as well as with social workers and Family Violence Council members in the state.