It’s a growing problem in the U.S. and it’s showing no signs of decreasing. The number of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) is rising at an alarming rate in sports, recreational activities and through military service. TBI occurs when trauma to the head inflicts damage to the way the brain functions. This can happen due to a fall, a car crash, or a collision involving the head during sports or other similar impact-causing activities.
The winter season brings with it a special set of risks from TBI, as the number of head injuries seen in emergency departments increases at this time. This number has been on the rise during the last six years, per the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, with more than 20,000 estimated incidents of TBI occurring each year due to winter sports.
The result of a TBI can be severe, up to and including a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a progressive and degenerative brain condition often seen in athletes with a history of repeated head injuries such as concussions. The suicides of several high-profile professional football players and intense media coverage of CTE in football and other sports is bringing this condition to the forefront of the medical world.
The symptoms of TBI, as noted by the American Physical Therapy Association, can include physical weakness or difficulty moving arms, legs, body and head; problems remembering or paying attention; changes in vision, hearing or sense of touch; and emotional or behavioral changes. Seeing a physician following a head injury is critical and can often lessen the chances of long-term damage.
Prevention and safety also help lessen the incidents of TBI. Wearing correctly-fitting helmets during winter sports, and minimizing risky and dangerous behavior can help you avoid concussions and other TBI. And, if a concussion or other TBI is suspected, removing the person from the activity until a medical professional has evaluated them is vital to preventing further injury.
For more information about TBI or CTE, contact the OrthoIllinois Department of Neurosurgery at (815) 398-9491.