Greater awareness of problems stemming from blows to the head could be leading to a major increase in the number of traumatic brain injuries, according to new research.
A study analyzing patient information from 950 hospitals nationwide found 2.5 million people were admitted to emergency rooms for treatment of traumatic brain injuries in 2010. That marked a 29 percent increase over 2006, even though emergency department visits went up just 3.6 percent in the same time frame, according to the study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Concussions in Young Children and Seniors Drive TBI Spike
Concussions and other unspecified injuries – many of which were minor – were a driving force behind the increase, and they were reported primarily in children under 3 and seniors above 60, according to the article.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Jennifer Marin of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said the increase in brain injuries could be linked to several factors, such as increased awareness and diagnosis of injuries such as concussions.
Researchers also said the rising number of head injuries among seniors and young children shows they might not be helped by initiatives such as bicycle and motorcycle helmet laws, strategies to reduce concussions and other efforts to improve sports safety.
Sporting Groups Tackle Head Injuries
From youth sports fields to professional athletic arenas, new rules are in effect to protect athletes from head injuries, primarily concussions, and to keep them from participating if they do sustain an injury.
For instance, the National Football League (NFL) has adopted rules to stop defensive players from leading with their helmet when tackling. At nearly every age level, players who sustain concussions must go through a battery of tests and be cleared by a physician before they can return to the field of play.
Still, the Brain Trauma Foundation says concussions, or mild traumatic brain injuries, are the most underreported, least diagnosed and underestimated head injury. It notes that concussions make up 90 percent of traumatic brain injuries and that millions occur annually.
Furthermore, it points out that 4 million athletes – from children to adults – sustain concussions each year, and that 20 percent of those diagnosed with even a mild concussion don’t recover.
How to Help a Head Trauma Victim
The Brain Trauma Foundation offers this information for an immediate head injury evaluation:
- Question the person to see how alert they are. First, see if they can open their eyes and, second, determine if they can explain what happened. If you don’t get an immediate response to either of those, call 911 for medical help.
- If the injured person is alert, ask if they have a severe headache, whether they feel like they’re about to vomit or whether they’re having trouble staying awake. If they answer yes to any of those or they display another other problems, get medical help or call 911.
- A health-care professional should evaluate all potential head injuries, ranging from mild, such as concussions, to severe, which can include comas. Take note that symptoms can appear hours or several days after the incident.
A person who sustains a brain injury should get plenty of rest and avoid engaging in activities that required concentration or physical exertion until they show no more symptoms of the injury.
By Cohen & Jaffe, LLP