Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a significant healthcare concern in the US, affecting 1.7 million individuals each year. There are approximately 1,365,000 emergency department visits each year for TBI, which equates to 3,740 per day. Of these, approximately 75% are the results of concussion and other forms of mild TBI. Falls are the leading cause of TBI, and motor vehicle accidents the leading cause of TBI related deaths. Most traumatic brain injuries result in widespread damage to the brain because the brain ricochets inside the skull during the impact of an accident. The direct medical costs and indirect costs of TBI, such as lost productivity, totaled an estimated $60 billion in the US for the year 2000 (Source: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010).
TBI can significantly affect cognitive, physical, and psychological skills. Physical deficits can include problems with ambulation, balance, coordination, fine motor skills, strength, and endurance. Cognitive deficits of language and communication, information processing, memory, and perceptual skills are common, and psychological status is often altered.
Brain injury can occur in many ways. TBI typically result from accidents in which the head strikes an object or sport activities. These are the most common types of TBI. However, other brain injuries, such as those caused by insufficient oxygen, poisoning, or infection, can cause similar deficits.
Mild TBI (MTBI) is often caused by concussion and characterized by one or more of the following symptoms: a brief loss of consciousness, loss of memory immediately before or after the injury, any alteration in mental state at the time of the accident, or focal neurological deficits. In many MTBI cases, the person seems fine on the surface, yet continues to endure chronic functional problems. Some people suffer long-term effects of MTBI, known as post-concussion syndrome (PCS). Persons suffering from PCS can experience significant changes in cognition and personality. Recent studies suggest that repeated TBI or MTBI has serious consequences to individuals later in life.