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The Most Common Causes of Brain Injury

4 min read

By Jeff Hayward

Brain injuries can happen at any age, and they present a variety of short-term or long-term symptoms depending on the patient. From mood swings to changes in physical abilities, brain injuries should be taken seriously and monitored.

About 1.5-million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) every year, according to (there’s also a category called acquired brain injuries, which may or may not be considered traumatic). There are a number of ways a patient may end up with a brain injury, some more obvious than others. Here are seven of the most common factors that lead to brain injury that’s either traumatic or acquired…

1. Falls

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falling down is the biggest culprit behind traumatic brain injuries – at least according to 2013 stats. The CDC says there were about 2.8-million TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths that year combined.

Of that number, 47-percent of all cases in 2013 involved falls, adds the CDC. If our math is correct, that’s more than 1.3-million reported cases of TBI from falls alone. The young and elderly are at the highest risk of a TBI from falling, notes the source – more than half of TBI cases in children aged 0 to 14 were caused by falling, while a whopping 79-percent of cases for seniors aged 65-and older were due to falls.

2. Violent Acts

This can be something that happens in the street or at home. For example, the Mayo Clinic says gunshot wounds falls under this category, which can obviously lead to traumatic brain injuries. Domestic violence (spousal abuse) can also account for a TBI.

Meanwhile, unfortunately there’s another problem at home leading to brain injuries in children – shaken baby syndrome, caused by “violent shaking of an infant that damages brain cells,” notes the clinic. Violence accounts for about 20-percent of all TBIs, it adds.

3. Contact in Sports

All About Traumatic Brain Injury explains that there are about 300,000-sports-related TBIs each year in the U.S. from sports like football, hockey and boxing. However, it’s not just limited to sports that encourage contact; it can also occur in sports like cycling, baseball and basketball, adds the source.

The more serious brain injuries are usually obvious, but there are many cases where the TBI is relatively mild – often referred to as a concussion. A “closed head injury” (with no obvious penetration of the skull) can sometimes be tough to pinpoint through medical imaging, so doctors rely on reported symptoms, adds the source.

4. Motor Vehicle Accidents

A brain injury from a car accident can be from a direct blow to the head, or the head being suddenly jerked – and the result can be mild to severe, notes The source cites a study in 2006 that concludes that about 280,000-Americans receive a motor vehicle induced TBI per year.

Whiplash – the jerking of the head and neck from the impact and sudden deceleration due to a crash – can move your brain around and damage nerve fibers that communicate with distant cells, it explains. Severe whiplash without a direct blow to the head can put a patient into a coma, it adds.

5. Explosives in Combat

The Mayo Clinic said military personnel could end up with a TBI due to an explosion (even if there’s no penetration of the skull from shrapnel). “Although the mechanism of damage isn’t yet well understood, many researchers believe that the pressure wave passing through the brain significantly disrupts brain function,” it explains.

Of course, shrapnel and debris that penetrate the skull can also cause a TBI, as can falling down or colliding with objects as a result of an explosion, it adds. Other sources compare this type of combat injury from “isotropic stress” (caused by a sudden change in velocity) to whiplash.

6. Lack of Oxygen

Brain damage can occur in only a few minutes if its supply of oxygen has been cut off, according to The lack of oxygen (called hypoxia) can lead to irreversible damage, adds the source.

There are a number of individual reasons that might starve a patient’s brain of oxygen; ranging from heart attacks, respiratory failure, drop in blood pressure or being in an environment that is low in oxygen, it adds. “This type of brain injury can result in severe cognitive and memory deficits,” explains the source.

7. Metabolic Diseases

Brain Injury Explanation notes that a metabolic disorder is when the body’s cells don’t process substances the way they should, leading to complications such as waste building up in cells and organs.

If the waste builds up in the brain, the cells in the brain can start to die and lead to neurological disorders (this falls under the acquired brain injury category). Metabolic disorders have been associated with development delays, vision problems, motor function problems and epilepsy, it adds.

Writer, General Health

Jeff has more than 15 years of experience writing professionally about health, travel and the arts among other subjects. He continuously looks to improve his own overall health through exercise, diet and mindfulness. He is also a proud stay-at-home dad that loves taking photographs both professionally and as a hobby.

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