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The 4 Most Common Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury (and How to Prevent Them)

Posted on: March 6th, 2013 by Romanucci & Blandin

Did you know that there are no pain receptors in the human brain? It’s one of the few areas of the body that can’t feel pain, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe from illness, disease and injury. In fact, over 1.7 million people in the U.S. suffer a traumatic brain injury every year.

While many of these accidents are avoidable, you can’t prevent something you don’t understand. As some of the most reputable personal injury attorneys in the Chicago area, the lawyers at Romanucci & Blandin know first-hand how devastating brain trauma can be. We want to help – not just by representing victims, but also by providing you with the information you need to stay safe.

How Do Doctors Define a Traumatic Brain Injury?

While any type of brain injury will be traumatic for the patient, hospitals take a more narrow view. In the medical world, not all brain injuries fall into this category, so let’s start by explaining exactly how a traumatic brain injury is defined. Brain tumors, strokes or genetic birth defects, for example, don’t apply, because these kinds of ailments aren’t caused by external force. We use the term “traumatic” when something outside of the body hits, jolts, squeezes or crushes the head and causes damage to the brain.

Leading Causes of Brain Trauma

As you can imagine, there are many ways for traumatic brain injuries to occur, but most can be grouped into one of four categories. Let’s take a look at the most common causes.

1     Falls. According to the CDC, falls contribute to 35.2% of traumatic brain injuries. Falls also account for half of all brain trauma injuries in children and over 61% of TBIs in seniors. Here are a few examples:

  • A diabetic adult’s blood sugar drops suddenly. He faints and hits his head on a concrete floor.
  • A two-year-old girl is left unattended at a daycare center. She climbs up the stairs, then slips and falls.
  • A nursing home patient gets up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. He trips and hits his head on the bathroom sink.

2     Motor Vehicle Accidents. Car crashes and other vehicle accidents are responsible for 17.3% of traumatic brain injuries. Most deaths resulting from brain trauma injuries (31.8%) are caused by motor vehicle accidents. Some examples:

  • A car strikes a little girl who’s not wearing a helmet while she’s riding her bike. When she falls, her head hits the pavement.
  • A truck driver loses control on an icy road. His airbag fails to deploy when he hits a telephone pole, causing his head to smash into the steering wheel.

3     Hitting or Being Hit by Objects. Of all the children who sustain traumatic brain injuries, 25% of them are hurt when they strike, or are struck by, foreign objects. These types of accidents make up 16.5% of all TBIs. Some examples:

  • A worker at a lumberyard forgets to secure a stack of 2x4s before moving them with a forklift. They topple, and a beam strikes another worker.
  • A batter hits a line drive during a softball game. The pitcher doesn’t react quickly enough, and the ball hits her directly in the forehead.

4     Assaults and Attacks. Sometimes, head trauma is caused intentionally. Roughly 10% of brain injuries are sustained during assaults or attacks. For example:

  • A man is attacked inside a bar. His assailant knocks him out with a pool cue.
  • A mailman finds himself face to face with an unchained pit-bull.  The dog lunges at him, and his head strikes a metal fence post.

As you can see, when it comes to traumatic brain injuries and head trauma, the list of possible causes is a long one. Even within the four categories we just covered, there are countless ways that traumatic brain injuries can occur. Since there are so many ways for these injuries to happen, how can we protect ourselves? We can start by incorporating certain safety measures into our everyday lives. We’ve collected some of the most effective prevention measures and compiled them into one helpful checklist.

How to Prevent Traumatic Brain Injuries

At Home and at Play

  • Don’t allow children on fire escapes, and always supervise them on balconies or decks.
  • Install sturdy handrails near all steps.
  • Use childproof safety gates on staircases – at both the top and bottom.
  • Anchor bookshelves to walls.
  • Don’t allow young children to ride or drive ATVs, and always wear a helmet when driving an ATV.
  • Don’t take children to playgrounds that feature hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete. Look for mulch or other soft materials.
  • Secure area rugs and electrical cords.
  • Immediately alert your doctor if you experience dizziness as a result of medication or illness.
  • Exercise regularly to maintain muscle tone and improve balance.
  • Install windows that can’t be opened by children.
  • Place non-slip mats and grab bars in all bathrooms.
  • Wear helmets or protective headgear during sporting activities.
  • Make regular appointments with an optometrist to check vision.

At Work

  • Use OSHA-approved hard hats in dangerous work areas.
  • Conduct and/or attend regular safety meetings at work.
  • Ensure parking lots and stairwells are well lit.
  • Never climb ladders alone and use a safety harness when possible.

On the Road

  • Wear a helmet while riding a bike or motorcycle.
  • Ride your bike in the same direction that traffic is moving.
  • Use bicycle lanes when available.
  • Never ride your bike or drive your car in a bus lane.
  • Always wear a seatbelt when inside a vehicle.
  • Never share seats in cars.
  • Always avoid alcohol and drugs when operating boats, forklifts or any other type of motor vehicle.
  • Don’t ride in the bed of a truck.
  • Inspect cars and trucks regularly.
  • Don’t wear earphones when biking or crossing the street.
  • Children should sit in the back seat of the car. Use car seats and booster seats at appropriate ages.
  • Make eye contact with drivers who are stopped at intersections before you cross the street.
  • Wear reflective clothing when walking or biking at night.

These are some of the precautions you can take to prevent serious head injury and brain trauma, but they aren’t the only ways to protect yourself. If you have a helpful tip, please share it in a comment below.

Unfortunately, no matter how safe your home is, no matter how diligent you are about observing traffic laws, and no matter how familiar you are with the causes of traumatic brain injuries, accidents do happen. But if you or someone you love is injured, you don’t just have to sit back and take it. You can fight for justice.

The attorneys at Romanucci & Blandin have been representing brain trauma victims in the Chicago area for nearly 15 years. Our reputable lawyers know your rights, and they know what it takes to get you the justice you deserve. Contact us today by calling (312) 458-1000. And remember, transportation negligence is no accident – it’s a crime.

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