Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) in the US

A TBI is an injury to the brain, usually from blunt trauma such as is seen in an automobile accident, a fall, or a sports related injury. Some people can sustain a traumatic brain injury secondary to a projectile but this is less common. Traumatic brain injuries are one of the leading causes of disability and death within the US. About 53,000 people die every year from a traumatic brain injury. Fortunately the number of deaths from traumatic brain injury fell from 1989-1999. They decreased by 11.4 percent, from about 22 to 99 per 100,000 in the population. The study described below involves the rate of traumatic brain injuries from 1997-2007.

The data for the study were from the public use files on multiple causes of death put out by the CDC. It looks at information gleaned from death certificates from the entire United States. They found that during the study period of 1997-2007, there were about 53,000 deaths per year, which amounted to 18.4 deaths per 100,000 population, related to traumatic brain injuries. Death rates decreased 8.2 percent or from 19 to 18 people per 100,000 population.

The death rates decreased by a great deal in those people aged 0-44 and it increased significantly in those aged 75 years or older. As is typical the deaths due to traumatic brain injury, males died at three times the rate when compared to females. The highest rate (41 per 100,000) was among American Indians and Alaskan natives. The lowest rate was among Hispanics at 22.7 per 100,000 population. Firearms caused traumatic brain injuries at 35 percent; motor vehicles caused these injuries at 31 percent and falls called TBIs at 16 percent. Firearms caused deaths most in people aged 15-34 and above 75 years of age. Motor vehicle death rates were greatest among those aged 15-24 years at 11.9 per 100,000 population.

Falls causing TBIs and deaths were highest among the elderly, aged 75 and above. They died at a rate of 30 per 100,000 population. All TBI related deaths decreased with the exception of falls. What the researchers discovered was that, while the number of traumatic brain injuries decreased from 1997-2007, these are still injuries that deserve public attention. During this reporting period, about 580,000 people died secondary to traumatic brain injuries. The rates of TBI deaths were highest in the younger population and the elderly population. Certain minorities suffered from higher rates of traumatic brain injuries. Firearms, falls and motor vehicle accidents were the top three causes of traumatic brain injury.

The researchers also felt that traumatic brain injuries need to be a public health concern with measures taken by emergency room staff and police to enforce things like seat belt laws and protection of the populace against firearm injuries. Certain populations are at higher risk and this needs to be known by public health officials. Helmet laws need to be more stringent and as many interventions as possible need to be put in place to protect those at highest risk for this particular injury.

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