“Weighing less than sixteen hundred grams (three pounds) the human brain in its natural state resembles nothing so much as a soft, wrinkled walnut. Yet despite this inauspicious appearance, the human brain can store more information than all the libraries in the world. It is also responsible for our most primitive urges, our loftiest ideals, the way we think, even the reason why, on some occasions, we sometimes don’t think, but act instead.” – from The Brain by Richard Restak, M.D.
What is a Brain Injury?
According to The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) a brain injury refers to the occurrence of an insult to the brain that causes damage. Brain injuries are all unique and can be traumatic or acquired based on the particular cause.
A Traumatic Brain injury (TBI) is defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain and may cause short- or long-term problems with independent function. An impairment of cognitive and physical abilities can occur. Some cognitive consequences can include memory loss, slowed processing, concentration issues, organizational problems and poor judgement. Physical consequences may include seizures, fatigue, headaches and dizziness. In some cases, there are also emotional and behavioral side effects, such as mood swings, depression or anxiety.
How this makes sense:
All brains are soft and delicate. Even though your brain is protected by your skull, a collision or blow to the head can cause the brain to collide with the inside of your skull, damaging the brain and resulting in a concussion or TBI. For example, in the case of a bike crash, three collisions in fact occur.
The first is you and your bike, against an object like the pavement, a tree or a car.
The second collision occurs with your head hitting into that object.
The third collision occurs when your brain hits the inside of your skull, potentially causing a brain injury.
This scenario can be applied to many situations in which brain injuries can occur such as sports injuries, car crashes, falls, or physical violence.
Why does this matter?
In the United States, 2.5 million people sustain a TBI each year. Of those people, 56,000 die and 282,000 are hospitalized, on average. However, this number only reflects those who received treatment or care.
Colorado ranks 9th in the nation for fatalities due to TBI and 13th in the nation for hospitalizations. In fact, Colorado emergency rooms see approximately 23,500 patients per year due to a TBI, and approximately 1,000 people die due to the injury.
Who is at Risk?
Males are 1.5 times more likely than females to sustain a TBI. The two age groups at highest risk for a TBI are 0 to 4-year old
’s, and 15 to 19-year olds. This might be explained by the high levels of sports activity and car crash rates for teens, as well as the alarming impact of abuse and Shaken Baby Syndrome in infants in the United States.
Symptoms and Treatment
Symptoms of a brain injury usually follow after the occurrence of a head injury. Symptoms include loss of consciousness, abnormal breathing, blood or clear fluid near the eyes, nose and mouth, disturbance of speech or vision, pupils of unequal size, disturbance of speech or vision, weakness or paralysis, neck pain or stiffness.
If you suspect your child has a brain injury, call your doctor. If it is an emergency (loss of consiousness, vomiting, excessive bleeding), call 911. Do your best to keep your child calm and still until help is received.
If you ever have a question about your children, want to schedule a check-up appointment, or are looking for a Denver-area pediatrician and want to learn more about our practice at Mountainland Pediatrics, call us at 303-430-0823.