Brain Injury 101

What is a Brain Injury?

Brain injuries that occur after birth and are not hereditary, congenital, or degenerative are called acquired brain injuries (ABI).1  ABIs can be obtained through a variety of mechanisms, such as stroke, tumor, infection, and reduced oxygen to the brain.  ABIs can also be obtained through traumatic means; traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are therefore a type of ABI.

Traumatic brain injuries are caused by an external physical force and can alter consciousness and cause cognitive, physical, behavioral, and emotional impairments.2 These impairments may resolve with time and treatment or they may be long-lasting and cause disability.2 Causes of TBI may include:

  • Motor Vehicle Crashes
  • Falls
  • Gunshot Wounds
  • Sports Injuries
  • Workplace Injuries
  • Child Abuse
  • Domestic Violence

How Common are Traumatic Brain Injuries?3

  • An estimated 1.7 million people sustain a TBI annually. Of them:
  • 52,000 die as a result of their injuries
  • 275,000 are hospitalized due to their injuries
  • 1.365 million, nearly 80%, are treated and released from an emergency department
  • It is not known how many people have a TBI and do not seek medical care
  • TBI is a contributing factor to a third (30.5%) of all injury-related deaths in the United States.

Age and gender differences in TBI3

  • Children aged 0 to 4 years, adolescents aged 15 to 19 years, and adults aged 65 years and older are most likely to sustain a TBI
  • Adults aged 75 years and older have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalization and death
  • In every age group, TBI rates are higher for males than for females


  1. Brain Injury Association of America (1997)
  2. National Head Injury Foundation (1996)
  3. Faul M, Xu L, Wald MM, Coronado VG. Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States: Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations and Deaths 2002–2006. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2010.