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Traumatic brain injuries are an American scourge. They are the leading cause of disability amongst young American adults.
Yet TBI awareness is on the decline. Many people know of brain injuries, but they don’t know where they come from and what the treatments are. If you want to be part of the solution for TBIs, you need to educate yourself.
What is a TBI, and what are its symptoms? How can someone receive treatment for a TBI? What can you do to spread awareness of brain injuries?
Answer these questions, and you can be an effective advocate for people living with brain injuries. Here is your comprehensive guide.
The Basics of a Traumatic Brain Injury
A traumatic brain injury can mean several different things. A closed head injury is an injury where the skull is not fractured, but the brain becomes damaged.
The brain is not fixed to the bottom of the skull. It can move around, and it can collide with the side of the skull or twist inside the head. Concussions are one type of closed-head injury, occurring when brain cells tear or become damaged after a collision.
A penetrating head injury is an injury where the skull and connective tissue around the brain become damaged. Gunshot wounds to the head count as penetrating brain injuries. Penetrating injuries tend to be deadlier than closed injuries because they damage many brain cells in both hemispheres of the brain.
Symptoms of TBIs
A TBI is a medical emergency that deserves medical attention. However, many TBIs do not receive treatment because the symptoms of an injury are not recognized. You should understand what the symptoms are and how to differentiate between a mild TBI and a severe one.
Keep in mind that not everyone experiences the same symptoms of a TBI. Injuries to the left side of the brain can cause different symptoms than injuries to the right side. When in doubt, you should contact emergency personnel to get someone medical treatment.
Someone with a mild injury may not show symptoms right away. Within a few hours, they may show difficulty paying attention to something. They feel intense brain fog, and they may have trouble remembering things
Bright lights and loud noises may disorient them. They may find it hard to walk or stand up because they feel dizzy and they have no energy. They may feel an intense headache alongside nausea.
Some people become very anxious, while others feel irritable or very sad. A person with a mild TBI may encounter sleeping difficulties as well. They may sleep less than usual and have trouble falling asleep, but they also may sleep too much.
The symptoms may alleviate within a few weeks. This does not mean that the injured person is out of the danger zone. A blood clot can develop inside the brain, or the brain may begin to swell.
You should continue to monitor the injured person and ask them to go to their doctor. If they have other injuries, they should get treatment for those as well.
The symptoms of a severe TBI overlap with those of a mild one. A person may have difficulty concentrating, thinking, and understanding new information.
They may have trouble speaking or writing things down. They may struggle to see and hear properly, and they may be extremely sensitive to touch.
A person with a severe TBI may feel intense emotions. Their emotions can be anxiety, anger, or sadness. They may act out or have trouble controlling their impulses, even if their impulses may hurt other people.
A person who loses consciousness or suffers from seizures after a collision or injury needs immediate medical attention. Do not move the injured person, as you risk making the injury worse.
Causes of TBIs
When people think about TBIs, they often think about injuries in sporting events or in car accidents. It is true that these causes of TBI are prominent ones. But brain injury awareness means being aware of all potential causes.
More than 2.8 million Americans suffer from a fall every year. Some Americans fall down a flight of stairs or trip on an object and hit their head on the floor. But others lose their footing and hit their head on a wall or table.
Between 2008 and 2017, death rates from fall-related TBIs rose by 17%. Older Americans are more likely to be inactive, which can make them more prone to falls.
According to a 2019 study, 21% of people sustain a TBI from an assault. A punch to the face or a blow to the back of the head can trigger an injury, even if the injured person does not fall to the ground.
The same study found that assaulted people were more likely to report worse self-reported outcomes than other people. They reported high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, sleeping difficulties, and anxiety.
Domestic violence is another common cause of TBIs. Someone may receive blows to their head from their partner, or they may get strangled. Strangulation can cut off the supply of oxygen to the brain, causing brain cells to die.
A separate 2019 study found that suicide attempts with firearms are the most common cause of TBI-related deaths. Between 2007 and 2017, TBI-related suicide deaths increased by 32% amongst non-Hispanic white Americans.
Even if someone survives their suicide attempt, they may have a debilitating TBI. Bullets can damage or destroy entire sections of the brain, making someone unable to speak or coordinate their limbs properly.
Treatments for TBIs
TBIs are not death sentences. A doctor can diagnose a TBI in one meeting by talking to the injured person about their symptoms. They can also run an imaging test to see what part of the brain is injured and if there are any signs of swelling or blood clots.
There are no treatments for TBIs that all doctors agree with. Each TBI is different, so some people need specialized treatments. However, there are some treatments that can be helpful.
People with mild TBIs should rest and take medication to reduce their pain. They can do basic activities like taking a shower or writing in a journal to keep their brain active. They should avoid strenuous activities that require significant physical or mental effort.
Someone with a moderate or severe TBI may need more advanced treatment. Some people need surgery to remove blood clots or reduce bleeding in the brain. If they have swelling, their doctors can open a window in their skull to provide room for their tissues.
After they leave the hospital, the injured person may need rehabilitation therapy. Occupational therapy helps a person relearn skills that help them with everyday activities, like writing. Physical therapy helps with mobility, while speech-language pathology assists with communication skills.
Coping with a traumatic brain injury is extremely important. A TBI can cause a person to lose self-esteem and struggle with depression. Support groups are available for all people with TBIs.
Becoming aware of the symptoms, causes, and treatments for TBIs is one way to promote TBI awareness. You should share information with others about TBIs, including written guides and infographics.
Brain Injury Awareness Month occurs every March. You can attend events at your local hospital and rehabilitation center related to brain injuries.
The Brain Injury Association of America sponsors Brain Injury Awareness Month, and it promotes a theme for it every year. For 2023, the theme is “More Than My Brain Injury.” The theme humanizes people who experience brain injuries, letting them share their stories and explore other parts of their lives.
If someone you love has a brain injury, you should talk to them about other things besides their injury. You can encourage them to write posts on social media or fictional stories about their life. They can also make art, record music, or do other creative projects.
You should try to be an advocate for people with brain injuries. Write to your local legislators and your representatives in Congress.
You can also start a fundraiser to raise money for brain injury awareness organizations. Fun runs and bake sales tend to be popular events, but you can do whatever you want.
The Essentials of Traumatic Brain Injuries
TBI awareness means a lot of different things. The symptoms of TBIs are varied, and it can be hard to notice the signs of a mild injury. Car accidents can cause injuries, but so can short falls, domestic violence, and suicide attempts.
Someone can also receive help from doctors to recover from TBIs. You should give your loved one living with a TBI all of the resources they need, and you should affirm and promote their story.
Take advantage of all the resources at your disposal. Power of Patients offers Sallie®, which helps TBI patients track their symptoms and pursue personalized treatments. Register for Sallie®.