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Senior Citizens at High Risk of Traumatic Brain Injuries from Falls

Falls continued to be the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (35.2%) in the United States; Falls cause  61% of all TBIs among adults aged 65 years and older

Oct. 29, 2013 - Anyone who cares for or just cares about an older adult - a parent, grandparent, other family member, or even a close friend - will say they are concerned about keeping their loved one healthy and independent. But few will say they are worried about a traumatic brain injury (TBI) robbing their loved one of his or her independence. That’s because many people simply are unaware that TBI is a serious health concern for seniors.


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Approximately 22% of all TBI-related hospitalizations involved adults aged 75 years and older and males are more often diagnosed with a TBI (59%).

Each year, traumatic brain injuries contribute to a substantial number of deaths and cases of permanent disability. Every year, at least 1.7 million TBIs occur either as an isolated injury or along with other injuries.

TBI is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that affects how the brain normally works. Dr. Ileana Arias, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says that "falls are the leading causes of TBI."

"Adults ages 75 and older have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalizations and death, and they tend to recover more slowly or die more often from these injuries than do younger people," says Dr. Arias.

Unfortunately, TBI is not visible and the signs and symptoms can be subtle. They might appear right after the injury occurs, or they might not be noticed or appear until days or even weeks later. TBIs also are easily missed because the person often appears to be fine, but may act differently than usual.

In addition, some TBI signs and symptoms mimic signs of aging, such as slowness in thinking, speaking, reacting, or becoming lost and easily confused. Therefore, it is important for those who care for and about older adults to look for signs and symptoms of TBI in those who have fallen or among those with a fall-related injury, such as a hip fracture.

The leading causes of TBI are:

   • Falls (35.2%);

   • Motor vehicle – traffic (17.3%);

   • Struck by/against events (16.5%); and

   • Assaults (10%).


   • Falls continued to be the leading cause of TBI (35.2%) in the United States. Falls cause half (50%) of the TBIs among children aged 0 to 14 years and 61% of all TBIs among adults aged 65 years and older.

Motor Vehicle-Traffic Crashes

   • Among all age groups, motor vehicle crashes and traffic-related incidents were the second leading cause of TBI (17.3%) and resulted in the largest percentage of TBI-related deaths (31.8%).

Fall prevention is the best way to combat TBI among older adults. Dr. Arias recommends the following to help prevent loved ones from falling.

  1. Encourage your loved one to exercise, if their doctor agrees. Exercise improves balance and coordination, so it’s one of the best ways to reduce an older adult’s chance of falling.

  2. Make their home and surroundings safer by making easy modifications, such as removing rugs, placing frequently used items within easy reach, and installing grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower or tub.

  3. Ask their health care provider to review all medicines—both prescription and over-the-counter. The way some medicines work in the body can change as people age.

  4. Take your loved one to have their vision checked. Poor vision can increase their chance of falling.

To learn more about the signs and symptoms of TBI and how to prevent, recognize, and respond to TBI in older adults, call CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit:

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC)








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