By: Daniel S. Chamberlain, Attorney

Since 1996, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been charged with reducing the rate of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the United States. Reports released this month by the CDC in the Journal of Head Trauma and Rehabilitation offer insight into the rates of TBI for both adults and children and recommend continued surveillance of incidents along with a strategic plan to measure and reduce the public health burden of TBI.

Recent rates of TBI

The CDC estimates approximately 3.6 million patients visited a hospital or doctor’s office related to a traumatic brain injury in 2009. This breaks down further to 2.4 million emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths involving a TBI diagnosis and 1.2 million visits to outpatient clinics and doctors’ offices. Nearly one third of these doctor office visits resulted in a hospital admission.

TBI injuries and employment statistics

A study conducted by Cuthbert et al., analyzed the unemployment rate of individuals with traumatic brain injuries. The research was focused on employment rates measured two years post injury. The authors found that approximately 60% of the people studied were unemployed two years after the injury was sustained. Of the 40% of patients studied that were employed roughly 35% of that group was only employed part-time.

The psychological impact of being productive, i.e. being employed, benefits the overall health of a person by providing a sense of purpose or belonging. The lack of full time employment for victims of traumatic brain injuries signals a need for government or society to put programming in place that can help them locate and secure meaningful work post injury.

Reducing sports and recreation-related TBI injuries

The CDC is concerned not only with understanding the impact that traumatic brain injuries have on public health but also identifying ways to reduce the occurrence of traumatic brain injuries overall. An important area to evaluate is sports or leisure activity related brain injuries. An unfortunate example of sports-related brain injuries is the litigation involving the NFL. A few years ago, former NFL football players filed suit against the league. Many of these players alleged the league failed to protect them from repeated head trauma and failed to warn them of the risks these injuries would have on their long-term health. Now, these retired players are suffering from a variety of neuro cognitive impairments effecting their memory, attention and learning. Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) are degenerative diseases that have also impacted some of these former players.

The CDC considers sports-related TBIs to be a serious concern as one study showed a 5% increase in sports and recreation-related brain injuries treated in emergency departments between 2001 and 2010. The number of injuries rose from 3.9 million to 4.1 million during that period. An alarming 65% of all sports-related traumatic brain injuries treated in emergency rooms between 2001 and 2010 were among people 19 years old and younger. Many of these brain injuries were the result of playground activities, bicycling, or football. Research indicates that 15% to 25% of people who suffer a mild TBI may have long-term physical, cognitive, and emotional consequences. Again, this underscores the importance of brain injury prevention and early detection.

Schools and sports clubs are now working to educate coaches, trainers, and other team personnel on methods of prevention and identification of concussive brain injuries in order to better protect players.

Other TBI resources

There are many great resources to help victims of TBI and their families get the help they need. The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) is a non-profit organization that helps connect families with medical professionals and offers educational programming for caregivers and loved ones. I serve as the chairman of the board for the organization and have litigated numerous lawsuits for victims of traumatic brain injuries and helped them get compensation for their injuries and medical care. If you have questions about TBI, please contact me at 1-866-446-7478 or email [email protected]