Traumatic Brain Injury: A Silent Epidemic




Neuroscience_Neurology.jpgApproximately every 15 seconds, someone in America suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI). There are about 1,500,000 new brain injuries each year. Most of these are mild concussions — which can have lasting cognitive effects — but many are much more severe. Approximately 50,000 Americans die each year as the result of brain injury; in fact it is the leading cause of death in Americans under the age of 45. There are three times as many deaths resulting from brain injuries each year than result from AIDS in the U.S. There are more TBIs each year than new cases of all types of cancer combined. Granted, cancer tends to be more lethal with roughly 500,000 deaths per year to 50,000 from TBI but TBIs are still very serious. TBIs have received relatively little attention, especially compared with the widespread campaigns raising awareness for diseases like breast cancer or HIV/AIDS. Some people have started calling TBIs a “silent epidemic.”

Traumatic brain injury affects all ages but children under the age of 4 are the most likely to sustain a TBI. There is another peak between the ages of 14 and 19 as well as at ages greater than 75. Males are more likely to sustain TBIs than females are. This is due largely to males engaging in risky behavior more often than females. Additionally, males have more successful suicide attempts than females do; many of these suicides result from gunshot wounds to the head. Most TBIs result from transportation-related injuries (automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents, and so forth). However about 25% result from falls. The very young and the very old are at most risk of falling. It is estimated that 50 percent of all TBIs involve alcohol.

Brain InjuryThere are two main types of TBI — closed head injuries (e.g., hitting the head on a windshield) and penetrating head injuries (e.g., gunshot wound). In a closed head injury there is coup damage (brain damage at the site of impact), contrecoup damage (damage on the other side of the brain, resulting from the brain gaining momentum from the impact), and diffuse axonal injury (damage to the axons — the connections — of the neurons in the brain).

The severity of traumatic brain injuries is often assessed using the Glasgow Coma Scale, with scores ranging from 3 to 15. The higher the score, the more mild the injury is. TBIs can result in a variety of physical and cognitive symptoms including: movement difficulties, talking difficulties, seizures, brief to severe memory loss, and impairment of attention, planning, information processing, language, and even personality and mood changes. Loss of sense of smell and taste is also very common in TBIs. Even mild concussions (which are traumatic brain injuries) can result in usually subtle but lasting impairments. When there is recovery, it often is slow and painful.

Traumatic brain injuries occur at alarming rates in the United States and around the world but usually receive little media or political attention. This is largely because TBIs usually result from accidents or crime (e.g., assault or abuse) unlike cancer or heart disease. However, TBIs affect millions of Americans, killing 50,000 each year. Many of those who survive go on disability — often permanently. Family and friends are affected as well. TBIs can be devastating. They truly are a “silent epidemic.”

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  • DavidM

    I am currently a high-school senior and I suffer from a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. Nonetheless, I managed to get in a Ivy-League school that I will start this fall… I appreciate your article because what I have is truly becoming a silent epidemic. The last GNIF conference helped kids like me when they were here in SoCal. Thanks a lot! :)

    • Kevan henson

      When I was 17 years old,I fell while mountain climbing in Colorado.My brain was severely bruised in 4 different area,there was a blood-clot on my brain,my right lung was partially collapsed,and my left lung had pneumonia in it.I spent 10 days in a coma afterwhich I had to learn how to see,talk,use my right side,walk and use my right side again.I also had to learn how todress,feed,and potty-train myself again.I was placed in An ultra-intensive therapy session that lasted the entire summer of 1969.After a few weeks,I regained the full use of my moeder faculties.However I still suffer from post-traumatic-stress-syndrome and it still makes things kind-of difficult for me,but I have learned how to have a real nice relationship with Jesus christHe has helped me with my depression,frustration,and anxiety. I have learned that it is ok to be imperfect because he has forgiven me of my struggles in life.I will recieve a perfect body when I leave this world.Amen.

      I am trying to contact as many tbi’s as I can and spread the message that Jesus Christ is the son of God.He did die for us on the cross,and on the 3rd day he did rise again;and he did ascend into heaven to prepare a home for us.

      Please write to me and let me know how you are doing.I am open to all who have suffered tbi’s to let them know that there is someone who understands what it is like to be frustrated beyond all belief.

      your friend and brother in Christ,
      Kevan Henson

    • ray and maria

      our son had a 30 foot free fall, while indoor rockclimbing. he went from a honor student, going for eagle scout, and perfect attendance for 3 years, to a complete different child. immediately after the fall he had injuries to back and neck and arm. no real tests were done on the head at the time of the fall. however, he has had periods of shaking in hands and legs. had had a decrease in memory, especially short term. headaches, and difference with his behavior. his symptoms became even more noticable after anesthesia for hip fracture aprox a little over a year after his fall. then his symptoms for memory were much worse and shaking hot and cold episodes, and more depressed mood. however this past summer his good friend , she passed away in a house explosion from propane, and since then he just is not the same. his moods change on a dime, he has been hanging out with different crouds, more aggitated and violent and seems to blame and target us as his parents. tells us not to help him. this has never been him. he went from a good student to not going to school at all. this year has been a huge struggle, and our concern is that he has a neruological short circut of some sort and is not able to get the correct medical help. this is a really good kid and we are just so concerned for him, his future, his life. he has worked hard to be were he was at , and now everything seems to be crumbling . my heart aches, and i just want to know who the best possible neurosugeon would be. Because it happened in 2008, this now makes it hard to diagnose what has happened and what exactly is wrong. please, anyone who has information, or connections or people they feel would be able to dirrect us to information that could help our son who is now 17, would be greatly appreciated. thank you very very very much

      • Kevan Henson

        Your son has obviously suffered a tbi and what you need to do is have an mri done on his brain. Has he been seen by a neurologist yet? If not, then you should set him up with one immediately.In the mean time,just have patience with him. One thing that you should realize is that he is a different person now; and not only he, but you as well have to accept that and make the new him as safe and as comfortabe as you can.

        I don’t want your family to fall apart like my family did. They were very demanding of me,to the point of being abusive,of me.Nothing that ever did for them was good enough for them and as a result, I do not have anything to do with them any more. They can all go to hell as far as I’m concerned and I do not want that to happen to you.

        Please write to me so that I can help you
        kevan

    • kevan henson

      congratulations and goof lkuck-
      Your friend Kevan Henson

  • Sheryl Baker

    Hi. I suffered a TBI in ’91 due to anoxia, via overdose during chemotherapy. There’s more to it but the semi-short version is I need to use a wheelchair because my equilibrium is not great. I am strong & in excellent shape, I work out everyday, I do nautilus, I drive, I swim & I walk with a walker. But because of my equilibriiumm, I usually use my wheelchair. I am telling you the things that I CAN do because I would like you to realize that my “disability” is only my balance. It is not the inner ear, that was verified earlier this year. What can you recommend?
    I also have weak senses of smell & taste and my Short-term memory is not great, but the balance is my primary issue. I’m meeting soon with a doctor regarding the memory, but I’ve made it through college, my BS in Health Rehab Counseling, but the balance is so frustrating.

    • Kevan henson

      I suffered a severe tbi when I fell while mountain climbing in Colorado,April 1969,I also had to regain the use of my balance and coordination.I am not so much concerned about the physical problems that you are having as I am on the psychological and spiritual problems that you are having.I still suffer from post-traumatic-stress-syndrome,mega anxiety,and mega frustration.

      The only reason why I haven’t blown my brains out yet is because Jesus christ,The only son of god,revealed himself to me in a couple of dreams where he showed me the power of God.

      Please write to me and if you don’t already know him,maybe you can meet him.
      your brother in Christ,
      Kevan

    • Kevan Henson

      It sounds like the madula oblongata of your brain was somehow damaged.Maybe you should research this area of your brain and talk to your neurologist about possible therapies that would target the vmadula oblongata. Good luck on your journey.

      Kevan Henson

    • Kevan Henson

      There is only one thing that you can do, and that is keep trying, do not give up on yourself. Go to physical therapy. I do not know if that will help, but it certainly won’t hurt.
      When I suffered my tbi,I too had trouble with my balance and coordination. But thanx’s to the gifted people at the division of rehab. in Colorado Springs, I had regained almost all of it in just a few weeks. The inner will power inside of you must be strong enough to give you the courage to overcome this dissability.

      Your friend and fellow survivor,
      Kevan henson

  • Amy

    The more attention we can give TBI, the better! Often people don’t understand what kinds of issues TBI survivors have, and this can compound the problem. We can help advocate by sharing videos on TBI and general TBI information.

    • Kevan Henson

      Tbi’s suck because now we are entirely different people. we cannot relate to our family or friends any more,not alone relate to ourselves again,we have different learning abilities and our frustration levels are through the roof.

  • http://thefightofmylife.blogspot.com ResilientHeart

    Thank you for this excellent, succint article, I am one of many struggling with a permanent TBI. Thank you for being a voice for us. Blessings, RH

    • Kevan henson

      Anything I can do to help anybody who is suffering from what I call “stuck in the super-glue of life”.I have suffered from a tbi for over 41 years,so I have a ton of experience with it. Anyone who wants to write me,I would be more than happy to hear from you.I also want to talk to the families of tbi’s.

      • Ley-Ann

        Hi Kevan

        My partner is still in hospital after being assulted , and has suffered extensive frontal lobe damage and anterior occipital damage. He has woken up , (after being in a coma for ten weeks and on life support and after having had three neuro surgeries to relieve pressure – they removed his frontal bone) , and thank God , recognises me , can walk, and has started eating on his own.
        What I have noticed , is he seems to understand but is struggeling to express himself in words – uses funny sounding words , or says things that seem strange. He also tires easily and is easily distracted – so right now , even though the dr are not very optimistic , I hang in there , praying against all odds that we are able to recover the essentials. We live in Cape Town in South Africa – and I am intrigued to say the least to hear you say you have lived with TBI for many years .? What can I expect … or is this a unrealistic question – nobody seems to want to talk to me about the future.

        • serene naude

          hi there, i live in Gordons Bay, near Cape Town South Africa, my daughter,28, lost her 2 children and she went into a coma for 2 months after a terrible tragedy.today she has her memory back, most of it,but unfortunately she wheelchair bound and can hardly use her arms/hands, but like you, we still are unsure of the future! Please let us, communicate, suddenly i feel there someone out there who understands how i feel!

          serene

          • kevan henson

            Dear Serene,
            I am so sorry about your loss.And I am sorry to hear that your daughter who is now confined to a wheel chair has had her life so altered. I know the damage that a tbi can cause not only physically but sppiritually as well. I just wish that there was something else that I could say to ease your pain. Remember that time heals all wounds- even the brain ,over time, can begin to retrain itself to do most of of the tasks that could be done before. Christ go with you on your hardships. May Christ smooth the way for you and make the path shorter for you.

            Your brother in Christ,
            Kevan Henson

          • Kevan Henson

            You are doing all you can for her. The rest is up to her. How far she progresses is entirely up to her; all that you can do is what you have been doing. Be patient with her and never let her see your frustration.

            Another thing that you can do is leave her with someone that you trust and just take a few days off and relax for awhile. You’ll find that you will be better able to help her if you are rested.

            Having lived with a tbi for thast 43 years I have learned that there are timess when I have to just get away and spend a few days in the uotback of Colorado where my home is.

            good luck and god bless you for your times of trial and heartache.

            Kevan Henson

          • Kevan Henson

            Tbi’s are the way of your daughter’s and my life now. We are complete strangers not only to uorselves but to our families as well. Help your daughter to understand that and be patient with her. And get help for yourself as well as her. Get involved with her physical and mental therapy. Just be there for her.

        • serene naude

          hi there, i live in Gordons Bay, near Cape Town South Africa, daughter,28, lost her 2 children and she went into a coma for 2 months after a terrible tragedy

          serene

          • kevan henson

            How is your daughter doing now?
            Kevan Henson

        • kevan henson

          Your friend is in a state of constant limbo. How long he stays there depends upon him and freinds like you. there is no way that I can stress the importance of friends like you.

          Yes I have lived with a tbi for going on 44 years and I understand what living life with ptsd,anger on a massive scale and frustration on a collossal scale is. and I have finally learned 1 true fact of all of the pain and frustration I have had to suffer through can be summed up in 1 phrase: (are you ready?) Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. He died on the cross for me, and he arose on the 3rd day to ascend into heaven and prepare a home for me.

          Please write to me and let me know how your friend is getting along. I wil pray for him always.

          Your friend
          Kevan Henson

      • ray and maria

        please email us, so that we can see if you could help us. thank you

        • kevan henson

          Peopls who have suffered a tbi will go through traumatic personality traits many of which will be completly foreighn to them and their families. Itsounds like his occipital lobe was damaged. this lobe rests at the back of his head ands controls speech,vision,and it also controls anger. You should get him in for an mri of his brain, also you wiill have to be careful how you talk to him. Always use a calm focused voice when you speak to him. Never raise your voice to him or show frustration of any kind when you speak to him. Also you must get him into therapy as soon as you can. don’t throw him in with just any therapist either as this will further hinder his recovery. get more involved with his life and gently let him know that you are there for him. go the extra mile with him. Go as many miles it takes for he is your son and you mustn’t give up on him.

          Please write to me and lets start a plan for your sons life.Af\trer I fell while mountain climbing when I was 17 yrs. old, my parents were bound and determined to make something out of me and so they began pushing me to do things that I wasn’t ready for. as the years went by, and their pushing got harder and harder for me I finally said I have had enough ofthis and I got up and walked out on them and I haven’t been back.

          You have to do research on tbi and ptsd, post traumatic stress syndrome,and you have to research what areas were affected by the fall.You have to to all of the leg work for him because right now he is unnable to.

          I will pray for him and you because I realize just how frustrating this is, not only for him but you as well.

          Your brother in Christ,
          Kevan Henson

        • kevan henson

          I went through the same psychological problems after I fell while mountain climbing in April of 1969. Please be extremley careful how you phrase your sentences. always be placid in choosing your sentences and never be harsh or let your frustration show through. your son is a different person now with different likes and dislikes. he also has different skill levels that he must learn how to conquer on his own terms. His frustration levels are through the roof because he is trying very hard to grasp the things that he used to take for granted. Relationships are very hard for him to grasp and so they are going to continously frustrate him. But time and yiour gentle persaverance will heal the wounds that keep him bound and gagged in limbo.

          Kevan Henson

    • Kevan Henson

      Write to me.Kevan Henson

    • Kevan Henson

      We are an army of one! We should love and support each other because in the long run,each other is all we have.

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Jared Tanner, PhD

Jared Tanner has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology with an emphasis in neuropsychology. His interests are mainly neuroimaging and neuroanatomy. He spends his research time looking at the structure of gray and white matter in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. With a focus on neuropsychology, he is also interested in how normal and abnormal brain structure relates to cognitive and behavioral functioning.
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