Preventing Traumatic Brain Injury

This March, in recognition of Brain Injury Awareness Month, CDC is working to raise awareness about traumatic brain injury. Improved prevention, recognition, and response can help address this important public health problem.

Understanding TBI

Have you ever hit your head as a result of a fall, car crash, or other type of activity and just did not feel right afterwards? After a few days, you returned to your normal activities, but continued to experience headaches sensitivity to noise, or difficulty concentrating and remembering things. Does this sound familiar?

A TBI can disrupt the normal functions of the brain. TBIs—ranging from mild concussions to severe, life-threatening injuries—can be prevented. The burden of TBI can be reduced through primary prevention strategies and improvements in the health and quality of life for TBI survivors.

CDCs researchers indicate that in the United States:

  • males have the highest rates of TBI,
  • the youngest children and older adults are at highest risk for sustaining fall-related TBIs,
  • Photo: A mother fastening a helmet on her son.adolescents and young adults (i.e., persons aged 15–24 years) have the highest rates of motor vehicle–related TBIs, and
  • adults aged ≥75 years have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalization and are more likely to die from TBI (either TBI alone or along with other injuries or illnesses) than any other age group.1

Learning the Signs and Symptoms

Most people with a TBI recover quickly and fully. But for some people, symptoms can last for days, weeks, or longer. And in severe cases, a TBI can lead to coma and even death. In general, recovery may be slower among older adults, young children, and teens. Those who have had a TBI in the past are also at risk of having another one and may find that it takes longer to recover if they have another TBI.

Symptoms of TBI usually fall into four categories


TBI symptoms thinking icon.gif Thinking/
TBI symptoms physical icon.gifPhysical TBI symptoms emotional icon.gifEmotional/
TBI symptoms sleep icon.gifSleep
Difficulty thinking clearly Headache
Fuzzy or blurry vision
Irritability Sleeping more than usual
Feeling slowed down Nausea or vomiting
(early on)
Sadness Sleeping less than usual
Difficulty concentrating Sensitivity to noise or light
Balance problems
More emotional Trouble falling asleep
Difficulty remembering new information Feeling tired, having no energy Nervousness or anxiety

Some of these symptoms may appear right away, while others may not be noticed for days or months after the injury or until the person starts resuming their everyday life and more demands are placed upon them.

See When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention, to learn about danger signs to watch for among adults and children.

Getting Help

People with a TBI need to be seen by a health care professional. If you think you or someone you know has a TBI, contact your health care professional. Your health care professional can refer you to a neurologist, neuropsychologist, neurosurgeon, or specialist in rehabilitation such as a speech pathologist. Getting help soon after the injury by trained specialists may speed recovery.

Getting Better

Photo: A father and son.Rest is very important after a TBI because it helps the brain to heal. Ignoring your symptoms and trying to tough it out often makes symptoms worse. Be patient because healing takes time. Only when your symptoms have reduced significantly—and you have the approval of your health care professional—should you slowly and gradually return to your daily activities, such as work or school. If your symptoms come back or you get new symptoms as you become more active, this is a sign that you are pushing yourself too hard. Stop these activities and take more time to rest and recover. As the days go by, you can expect to gradually feel better. If you do not think you are getting better, tell your doctor. See Getting Better for tips to help aid recovery from a TBI.

Reaching Out

Several groups help people and their families deal with concussion and more serious TBIs. They provide information and put people in touch with local resources such as support groups, rehabilitation services, and various health care professionals.

See Finding Support for more information, including contacting support groups in your area.

Learn more information about TBI in the militaryExternal Web Site Icon, including an interactive website for service members, veterans, and families and caregivers.

Improving Research

Research and data are critical to understanding traumatic brain injury as an important public health problem. CDC collects and reports TBI data to help inform prevention strategies, identify research and education priorities, and to support the need for services among those living with a TBI.

See more TBI statistics or who is at risk and download reports, get national and state TBI estimates, and to learn about the leading causes of TBI in the United States.

Helping Spread the Word

To help improve prevention, recognition, and response to TBI, including concussions, CDC developed the Heads Up educational initiatives to offer information to health care professionals, school professionals, sports coaches, parents, athletes, and others.


Content source: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Injury Response

Leave a Reply