Every March during Brain Injury Awareness Month people from across the country take time to honor those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). As a public awareness campaign, it works to remove the stigma associated with brain injury through education and outreach, and empower brain injury survivors along with their family and friends who support and encourage them.
Impact of a TBI
A TBI is caused by a blow or other head trauma that changes how a brain normally functions. They range in acuteness from severe, which involves an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after an injury, to mild. Mild TBIs are the most common type of injury and commonly called concussions. The symptoms for mild TBIs usually resolve in days to weeks. However, all TBIs are serious injuries and can have long-term effects on survivors.
The effects of a TBI are often invisible to others in society, a hidden disability. Although the effects may not be visible, the person is forever changed. Brain injury survivors react differently to the outcome of the trauma but most experience similar effects including cognitive difficulties or challenges with attention, concentration, speech and language, learning and memory, reasoning, planning, and problem-solving. The effects of the TBI may also impact the person’s social, behavior, judgment and communications skills.
One brain injury survivor describes living with cognitive difficulties, as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Post Concussive Syndrome (PCS). He explained that it has been “a long and painful process” in accepting that he is now “permanently disabled.”
Leading causes of TBIs
A TBI is a preventable public health issue and the leading causes illustrate this fact. In 2013, there were approximately 2.8 million TBI-related emergency department (ED) visits, an increase of 47 percent since 2007. The number of ED visits for sports and recreation-related TBIs more than doubled among children 19 years or younger. While sports is a leading cause of TBIs, and one of the most high-profile, it isn’t the only cause.
The most recent data available shows that TBIs are most often the result of a fall, being struck by an object, or motor vehicle crashes. It also shows that young children and older adults are at highest risk of a TBI.
- More than half (54 percent) of TBI-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths among children 0 to 14 years were caused by falls.
- Nearly 4 in 5 (79 percent) TBI-related ER visits, hospitalizations, and deaths in adults aged 65 and older were caused by falls.
- Falls were the leading cause of death for persons 65 years of age or older.
Struck by object
- Being struck by or against an object accounted for about 15 percent of TBI-related ER visits, hospitalizations and deaths in the United States in 2013.
- For children 15 years of age or younger, more than 1 in 5, or 22 percent of TBI-related ER visits, hospitalizations and deaths were caused by being struck by or against an object.
Motor vehicle crashes
- Among all age groups, motor vehicle crashes caused 14 percent of TBI-related ER visits, hospitalizations and deaths.
- Motor vehicle crashes caused 19 percent of TBI-related deaths in 2013.
- They were the leading cause of death for persons 5-24 years of age.
Mitigating impact, reducing risk
Beasley Allen attorneys have worked with a number of clients who experienced TBIs. The attorneys understand just how important access to programs are to the survivors of brain injury and those in their support networks who help them, often on a daily basis. They also understand the need to educate the public and for better regulations of activities, such as sports activities and driving, to reduce the risk of life-changing injuries.
Three of the firm’s lawyers are actively involved in the state’s leading brain-injury nonprofit organization, the Alabama Head Injury Foundation. Mike Andrews is the President of AHIF’s Board of Directors, while Stephanie Monplaisir is Montgomery Chapter President and Evan Allen serves on the AHIF’s Junior Board Chapter.
The AHIF supports any and all legislation that can reduce the number of fatalities or brain injuries. Its legislative advocacy efforts led to the passage of the Alabama Coach Safely Act, last year. The Act requires every volunteer coach of children aged 14 and younger in the state that coaches a “high-risk youth athletics activity where there is a likelihood that a child or youth can sustain a serious injury” to complete a no-cost course in youth sports injury recognition and prevention.
This year, AHIF is supporting the Hands Free Alabama (House Bill 6) legislation because motor vehicle accidents continue to be the leading cause of injury to AHIF’s clients statewide and often they are the result of distracted driving. The bill would restrict the use of electronic devices by motorists in the state to reduce distracted driving. The organization is partnering with the Lunsford family, whose daughter Camryn “CiCi” Callaway was killed in February 2018 in a crash. The driver of the other car was texting while driving.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Alabama Head Injury Foundation