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TBI: A Silent Killer in a Silent Population

TBI: A Silent Killer in a Silent Population
April 21
12:59 2016
A traumatic brain injury or “TBI” is a serious blow to the head that disrupts normal brain function. Not every jolt to the head is a TBI. The severity of such injuries ranges from mild (brief unconsciousness or confusion) to severe (extended period of amnesia/unconsciousness). Damage can be permanent.

A TBI can affect the following functions:

• Thinking
• Learning
• Language
• Behavior
• Emotions
• Sensation

Such an injury can also lead to epilepsy and increase a person’s risk for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other brain disorders.

Nearly 1.7 million Americans sustain a TBI each year. Of that number, 52,000 die and 275,000 are hospitalized.

On top of that, the CDC estimates that roughly 5.3 million Americans currently struggle with TBI aftereffects that make mundane activities difficult.

Risk Factors

Teenagers are more likely to sustain a serious head injury, but older adults are more likely to die from one. This is why the older population is sometimes called a “silent population.”

TBIs have become a leading cause of death, so much so that some are calling it an “epidemic.” And yet we know little-to-nothing about its risk factors. Until now.

A study published recently in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society set out to discover what factors make an older adult (65+) more likely to suffer a TBI. The study is the first of its kind.

Over 4,000 adults participated in the study. Each participant was 65-years-old or older, showed no signs of dementia, and had never sustained a TBI. Over the next 7 years, researchers collected data on participant health, alcohol use, depression symptoms, and physical fitness and measured cognitive and physical abilities with performance tests.

Turns out, older adults with the following are at an increased risk:

• Depression
• Difficulty performing ADLs (activities of daily living)
• Difficulty performing ADLs Multiple chronic diseases

Interestingly enough, the following factors were not related to TBI risk:

• Alcoholism
• Sedentary lifestyle
• Low cognitive function
• Signs of Alzheimer’s

For those who had suffered a traumatic brain injury during the period of the study, the following factors increased the chances of death:

• Difficulty performing ADLs
• Difficulty performing ADLs

Not only does this study shed some light on the risk factors associated with traumatic brain injury, but it also reveals the fact that there is a serious need for a TBI-focused prevention program – especially for those at the highest risk. 



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April Kuhlman

April Kuhlman

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