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What is a Brain Injury?

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is defined as a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts of the head result in a TBI. The severity of such an injury may range from “mild” (a brief change in mental status or consciousness) to “severe” (an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury). A TBI can result in short or long-term problems with thinking, learning, language, behavior, emotions and/or physical function.

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)

Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) can be defined as an injury to the brain, which is not hereditary, congenital or degenerative, that has occurred after birth. ABI includes injuries due to anoxia, brain infections, toxic exposure, stroke, aneurysms and others.

Statistics & Costs

In Wisconsin

It is estimated that between 6,000 and 8,000 individuals in Wisconsin experience a Traumatic Brain Injury. The number is likely low, a it may not reflect those who were not admitted to the hospital or those injured that went unreported.


  • Approximately 1 in every 10 individuals is touched by brain injury.
  • 2.5 million sustain a traumatic brain injury annually in the US. Of those,
    • 2.2 million are seen and released from an emergency department
    • 280,000 are hospitalizations
    • approximately 50,000 result in death due to TBI
  • An estimated 5.3 million Americans – a little more than 2% of the U.S. population – currently live with disabilities resulting from traumatic brain injury.
  • Every 23 seconds, an infant, child, teenager or adult sustains a traumatic brain injury (in the U.S.).
  • The risk of TBI is highest among adolescents, young adults and those older than 75 years.
  • After one brain injury, the risk for a second injury is three times greater; after the second injury, the risk for a third injury is eight times greater.

Costs of Brain Injury*

The cost of brain injury in the United States is estimated to be $76.5 billion annually. This figure includes direct medical costs and indirect costs such as lost productivity.

Brain injury accounts for more years of lost productivity than any other injury.

Causes of Brain Injury

  • Brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability in children and young adults.
  • Falls are leading causes of TBI for persons ages 65 and older.
  • Transportation-related injuries is the leading cause among persons ages 15 to 64.

Possible Consequences of Brain Injury

Physical Changes

  • Seizures of all types
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Double vision or low vision, even blindness
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Speech impairments such as slow or slurred speech
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Fatigue, increased need for sleep
  • Balance problems
  • Motor coordination

Thinking Changes

  • Short-term memory loss; long-term memory loss
  • Slowed ability to process information
  • Trouble concentrating or paying attention for periods of time
  • Difficulty keeping up with a conversation; other communication difficulties such as word finding problems
  • Spatial disorientation
  • Organizational problems & impaired judgment
  • Unable to do more than one thing at a time
  • A lack of initiating activities, or once started, difficulty in completing tasks without reminders
  • Decision making difficulties
  • Sequencing difficulties
  • Inflexibility
  • Self-perception
  • Persistence

Personality & Behavioral Changes

  • Depression
  • Social skills problems
  • Mood swings
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Inability to inhibit remarks
  • Problems with emotional control
  • Difficulty . . .
    • relating to others
    • maintaining relationships
    • forming new relationships
    • interpreting social cues
  • Stress, anxiety, frustration
  • Egocentric behaviors; difficulty seeing how behaviors can affect others

*Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)


Falls are the most common cause of TBI among older adults.
The most effective way to prevent falls is by doing these things:

  • Exercise Regularly:
    • Exercise helps to improve balance and coordination
    • It helps one to become stronger and to feel better
  • Make Your Home Safer:
    • Remove throw rugs or use double sided tape to keep rugs from slipping
    • Remove things that you can trip over
    • Install grab bars next to the toilet and in the tub or shower
    • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors
    • Place items used often within easy reach, so that a step stool is not needed
    • Improve the lighting in your house
    • Be sure there are handrails and lights on all staircases
    • Wear shoes that give good support and have non-slip soles
  • Ask Your Healthcare Provider To Review All Medications:
    • Ask your doctor or local pharmacist to review all of your prescription and over the counter medications
    • As people age, the way some medications work in the body can change
    • Sometime those medications can make an older person drowsy or lightheaded, which could lead to a fall
  • Have Your Vision Checked:
    • Make sure an eye doctor checks to be sure eyeglasses are correct and that there are no conditions that limit vision, like glaucoma or cataracts
    • Poor vision can increase the chance of falling

For more facts on brain injury, fall prevention information and seniors or to view or download brochures visit the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov/BrainInjuryInSeniors or call 1-800-232-4636.