Traumatic brain injury occurs when a person sustains a bump, blow or jolt to the head that disrupts how the brain normally functions. TBIs, which can range from mild to severe, are a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. The first and leading causes of TBI are falls and motor vehicle crashes, accounting for 52% and 20% of all cases, respectively. According to the CDC, approximately 2.87 million TBI-related hospitalizations, emergency room visits and deaths occurred in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States in 2014. The condition contributed to about 56,000 deaths, 2,529 of which were among children.
The majority of TBIs that occur in the US fall into the “mild” category. The medical field also refers to mild TBIs as concussions. However, many people sustain moderate to severe TBIs, which can cause debilitating symptoms. For those with moderate TBIs, the symptoms may last for a few weeks to a few months. Those with severe TBIs, however, may develop life-long symptoms that forever alter their way of life.
Traumatic brain injury can alter a person’s physical, emotional and sleep health. Short term symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, dizziness, headache and blurred vision. Long-term symptoms can include sensitivity to noise and light, tinnitus, irritability, sleep problems, lethargy, anxiety and depression. Some symptoms may appear right away, while others can take weeks to months to develop.
Both the short- and long-term symptoms of TBI can make it difficult for the sufferer to perform everyday tasks, including work. Though a person with a TBI is not visibly disabled, the fact of the matter is, he or she lives with a disability, and a costly one. According to BrainandSpinalCord.org, the estimated cost of traumatic brain injury in the US is right around $48.3 billion, $31.7 billion of which goes towards hospitalization costs. Another $16.6 billion goes toward TBI-related deaths. Approximately $9 billion to $10 billion goes toward rehabilitation and acute care of TBI patients each year.
These estimates do not account for the indirect costs of a brain injury. Those include lost costs associated with decreased productivity, lost earnings and lost work time.
On an individual level, TBIs are costly. Though costs vary from individual to individual, BrainandSpinalCord.org estimates that the average cost of care for a TBI over a lifetime is between $600,000 and $1,875,000.