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From a minor fall when riding a bicycle to a serious car collision — there are many causes of traumatic brain injury. Typically associated with the latter, the German research team at BG Kliniken reportedly found that there has been a shift in the age group most frequently affected and that there is a discernible correlation between the severity of a traumatic brain injury, age, and cause.
A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is any injury to the skull, with or without fracture, that involves damage to the brain. Just like the causes, the symptoms can also be very diverse. However, even minor injuries to the skull can cause bleeding or swelling of the brain, which is why a traumatic brain injury should be assessed immediately after an accident.
Every year an estimated 42 million people worldwide suffer a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion. More severe traumatic brain injury is a well-established risk factor for a variety of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and dementia.
The study showed that the most frequent causes of traumatic brain injury are falls and no longer road traffic accidents. There has also been a shift when it comes to road traffic collisions: The largest group here is no longer car occupants, but cyclists without helmets. Moreover, current findings reportedly show that traumatic brain injury is increasing in the age group of over 65.
“We are registering a clear shift in the majority of the affected age group towards the older generation. This phenomenon can be observed in almost all industrialized countries,” Professor Peter Schwenkreis, senior physician at the Neurological Clinic at Bergmannsheil, reportedly explained.
A link with the age of those affected is also discernible. Falls are the most common cause, especially among older women and men. “Older people are significantly more prone to falls and thus suffer a traumatic brain injury more quickly than other age groups. In addition, the severity of the injury is higher in these patients,” Schwenkreis specified. “This also explains why we are seeing an increase in deaths caused by such an injury in this age group.”
About 90% of the approximately 270,000 cases of traumatic brain injury per year are classified as mild, while 10% are moderate or severe. And as moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries occur more frequently in older people, the research group noted a need for more prevention work. “Training measures for safe walking, training in the use of walking aids or redesigning the home by removing tripping hazards are conceivable. As simple as these measures sound, they can prevent serious injuries,” Peter Schwenkreis reportedly said. “The advances in passenger protection in cars have had a clearly demonstrable effect. Now it is important to implement the protection of pedestrians and cyclists as part of the emerging shift in mobility.”
TBI has contributed to the deaths of more than one million people in the U.S. over the last two decades. The most recent TBI data available show that there were nearly 61,000 TBI-related deaths in 2019, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Moreover, a new study revealed that people of color have twice the risk of death after a traumatic brain injury than among whites.