Living with Traumatic Brain Injury – Fast Facts

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be caused by a blow or jolt to the head, often resulting in short or long-term problems with independent function. Even today there is much misinformation about TBI. In years past, persons with TBI had been thought of as incapable of doing two things at once, for example chewing gum and walking, but in truth recovery from such injuries can be dramatic and long-lasting. Traumatic brain injuries affect millions of people every year in the United States alone, and despite long-lasting impairment, many people so injured become capable of leading enriching, fulfilling lives.

How many people have TBI?

It is widely reported that well over 1.7 million people sustain a TBI every year in the United States alone. However, this figure takes into account only brain injuries that are reported and to some extent treated by healthcare professionals. Many mild traumatic brain injuries, particularly concussions, go unreported and untreated, invisible until symptoms eventually manifest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently [as of 2013] have revised this estimate to 3.5 million Americans sustaining a traumatic brain injury annually.

What are the long-term consequences of TBI?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 3.17 million Americans currently have a long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living as a result of a TBI. According to one study, about 40% of those hospitalized with a TBI had at least one unmet need for services one year after their injury.

The most frequent unmet needs were:

  • Improving memory and problem solving
  • Managing stress and emotional upsets
  • Controlling one’s temper; and improving mental stamina
  • Improving one’s job skills

TBI can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting thinking, language, learning, emotions, behavior, and/or sensation. It can also cause epilepsy and increase the risk for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain disorders that become more prevalent with age.

Things to Remember

Traumatic brain injury is unpredictable in its consequences. TBI affects who we are, the way we think, act, and feel. It can change our lives in a matter of seconds.

The following are the most important things to remember:

A person with a traumatic brain injury is a person first.

The effects of a TBI are complex and vary greatly from person to person.

The effects of a TBI depend on such factors as cause, location, and severity.

The vast majority of general medical doctors do not possess comprehensive knowledge of TBI.