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Common Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries and How to Prevent Them

June 1, 2023Articles

Traumatic brain injuries are a significant public health concern in the United States with an estimated 190 TBS deaths daily. Brain injuries are also one of the most common causes of disability. The brain controls all body symptoms as well as cognitive function, mood, and personality. When part of the brain sustains damage, the impacts can be very serious. Unlike damage from a stroke or lack of oxygen, a traumatic brain injury occurs as a result of outside trauma such as a blow to the head, a severe jarring motion that causes the brain to shake within the skull, or a penetrating wound, such as a gunshot.

The term, traumatic brain injury (TBI), can refer to any of a wide range of injuries to the brain from a mild concussion to a severe, diffuse brain injury with coma and/or death. Many brain injuries fall in the middle of this range, with noticeable impacts on function, mood, and cognition, often leaving long-term impairment. According to the CDC, there are many ways to minimize the chances of sustaining a brain injury, including understanding how they most commonly occur.

Traumatic Brain Injuries From Falls

Falls are the number one cause of traumatic brain injuries in the United States, with nearly 110,000 hospitalizations for fall-related brain injuries recorded during a study in 2017. According to the CDC, unintentional falls are the second-leading cause of TBI-related deaths. The most at-risk demographic for falls resulting in brain injuries are adult seniors over the age of 75. Falls are also the leading cause of brain injuries in children but are less likely to result in mortality compared to falls in elderly or senior adults. By understanding risk factors in senior citizens. adults, and children can help minimize the risk of falls. Some risk factors to be aware of include:

  • Age: those over age 65 and under age 15 are most commonly hospitalized for fall-related injuries including TBI
  • A history of previous falls
  • Having a fear of falling
  • Suffering recent changes in strength, muscle tone, and flexibility such as when recovering from a recent illness
  • Altered or impaired balance
  • Polypharmacy (regularly taking 4 or more medications)
  • Suffering cognitive deficits or dementia
  • High alcohol intake
  • Suffering from chronic conditions
  • Experiencing short-term medication side effects
  • Environmental factors such as inadequate lighting or cluttered home environment.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable, but individuals of any age living with one or more of the above factors are at an increased risk of falls.

Falls from ladders, stairways, beds, and in the bathtub or shower are the most common causes of fall-related brain injuries. Fall risks in the home can be minimized by:

  • Installing handrails on stairs
  • Using handrails, grab bars, and non-slip mats in the bathroom
  • Removing clutter, carpets, and other tripping hazards
  • Installing adequate lighting
  • Remaining active during the elderly years
  • Having regular eye exams and updating eyeglasses as needed

Car Accidents and Traumatic Brain Injuries

During the 2017 research study on traumatic brain injury causes, car accidents were the second leading cause of TBIs with 54,725 hospitalizations for car accident-related brain injuries. Wearing a seatbelt is the most important factor in preventing brain injuries from car accidents. Seatbelt use decreases the risk of severe injuries by 50%. Brain injuries in car accidents can result from blunt force trauma or from a powerful jarring motion that causes the brain to bump against the inside of the skull or twist inside the skull, causing tearing and bleeding. Besides wearing a seatbelt, motorists can reduce their risk of suffering brain injuries in a car accident by doing the following:


  • Children should ride in the backseat of the vehicle and young children should be correctly strapped into age-appropriate car seats
  • Avoiding distractions while driving such as texting, checking notifications, scrolling social media, or setting a GPS without pulling into a safe location
  • Never driving while intoxicated
  • Avoiding driving when taking medications that could cause drowsiness or impairment
  • Following the speed limit and other traffic laws

While it’s not possible to prevent all car accidents, human error is the number one cause of accidents. Remaining vigilant and carefully adhering to traffic laws reduces the risk of car accidents and related traumatic brain injuries.

Traumatic Brain Injuries From Sports and Outdoor Activities

Many brain injuries result from playing sports and engaging in other athletic and outdoor activities. Brain injuries ranging from mild concussions to severe damage can result from rough sports and outdoor activities such as football, ATV-riding, cycling, skating, and diving. Individuals who enjoy these activities can reduce their risk of TBIs by wearing appropriate helmets for activities such as:

  • Bike riding
  • ATV-riding
  • Football, hockey, or when batting in baseball
  • Skating (roller, in-line, or skateboard)
  • Skiing or snowboarding
  • Horseback riding
  • Snowmobile riding

Boxing, martial arts, and other high-contact activities can also increase the risk of suffering a TBI. If you or a loved one enjoys these activities, be sure to have frequent discussions with a doctor about your individual risk, especially if you’ve suffered multiple concussions.

Diving is also an activity that sometimes results in brain injuries. Always check the water depth and look for hidden rocks and other underwater obstacles before diving to reduce the risk of head and neck injuries.

Practicing safety on playgrounds and supervising children on swings, play structures, and playground equipment can minimize the risk of head injuries in children playing outdoors while installing window guards, bed rails, and handrails can reduce indoor risks to children.

Violence and Traumatic Brain Injuries

The 2017 study revealed that 14,590 traumatic brain injuries were caused by assault and acts of violence, while 1,460 were caused by self-harm such as suicide by firearms or by jumping from heights. Penetrating head wounds from bullets or blades cause severe brain injuries by tearing through delicate brain tissue and forcing shards of skull bones into the brain. This type of injury causes a significant number of brain injury deaths in young adults. Other causes of violence-related brain injuries include:

  • Domestic violence
  • Shaking injuries in infants
  • Bomb blasts

According to the CDC, men are twice as likely to sustain both violence-related and sports-related brain injuries than women.

While there may be no way to completely prevent traumatic brain injuries, by understanding their causes and how to take preventative measures, we can reduce the risks in all demographics. Contact a New Haven brain injury lawyer today for a free consultation.