10 Million People Each Year. Yes We Need to Care about Brain Injury Incidence!


Image by Svilen Milev

This week I was reading reports about brain injury (often undiagnosed) in young people, particularly young men and felt I just had to share some thoughts.

Yes, I know I promised not to shower you with too many statistics about brain injury. Yes, I did say that we would talk about all types of brain injury not just Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). We will. Really, we will. But first:

Why keep on about the incidence of brain injury?

It seems we are still not as aware as we should be of the risks inherent in many activities. This  includes sports such as cycling, football, skiing, boxing, vehicles both on and off road, and war related injuries whether direct or indirect.

We are also still learning about responsibilities for prevention and ongoing support.

As the numbers increase, (as they continue to do), we are all very likely to meet people in all kinds of situations who have a brain injury and this should encourage us to learn more about it. We can also play a part in encouraging prevention amongst our family, friends, and wider community.

Some Points to Remember about Brain Injury Incidence:

  • Brain injury whether mild, moderate, or severe, changes lives.
  • Concussion is to be taken seriously
  • Brain injury continues to be misdiagnosed, or not diagnosed at all.
  • Some people will be aware, and live their lives accommodating a brain injury.  Some people have never been properly assessed and are not aware of the cause of their difficulties.
  • A person may, or may not be able to manage brain injury in their lives. The latter group can sometimes end up in all kinds of strife and trouble because no-one, including themselves, knows what to do about it.
  • It’s the brain injury not the person that is causing the difficulties.


Where is the evidence you ask?

Below is a series of links to information about brain injury incidence in different groups, in different parts of the world.  Each with quite startling statistics on the incidence of brain injury. There are many more available on the many causes so please add details of any you have found helpful in the Comments below.

Low Cognitive Function, Socioeconomic Status Linked to Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Notice the statistics quoted in this report

10 million cases of traumatic brain injury globally per year with mild traumatic brain injuries being responsible for 70-90% of these”.

Yes. That says 10 million people each year!

Just to further astound us the article goes on to describe a study in Sweden of 305,885 young men entering military service:

  • 4,713 had already suffered one mild traumatic brain injury
  • 11,217 men sustained one mild traumatic brain injury a
  • And 795 men at least two mild traumatic brain injuries during the study.


A Report into TBI Among Prisoners

A study conducted in Minnesota, USA. This report looks at both incidence and strategies for the criminal justice system to better identify and manage people with TBI. A study of  “998 inmates assessed, 82.8% reported having had one or more head injuries during their lifetime,”

“One in Two Inmates Has Brain Injury”

An article in The Age newspaper, Australia describes the incidence in the prison population in Victoria, Australia. Again highlighting the high incidence and the need for better management and identification.

 “U.S. Military Casualty Statistics: Operation New Dawn, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom”

This  2013 report states that “Of the total 253,330 traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases between January 1, 2000 and August 20, 2012, 194,561 have been mild, 42,063 have been moderate, 6,476 have been severe or penetrating, and 10,210 have not been classifiable.”

Falls Related TBI

In 2008 this report was produced by Brain Injury Australia, describing the incidence of brain injury resulting from falls.

What does all this mean?

Brain injury, particularly undiagnosed brain injury, is more common than we realize.

Young men appear to be particularly at risk.

While not every person with undiagnosed brain injury will end up in prison, a high number of people in our prisons have a brain injury.

Returning soldiers are showing high incidence of brain injury with or without direct injury.

Mild brain injury can have significant impact on a person’s life.


What can you do?
  • Understand as much as you can about brain injury, including potential signs.
  • Encourage the use of preventative measures such as wearing helmets for sport.
  • Using appropriate strategies can play an important role in supporting people with brain injury, whether diagnosed or not.
  • Be alert – you may be supporting people who are unaware the difficulties they are having are as a result of brain injury.
  • Support people who believe they may have an underlying issue, such as brain injury, to seek appropriate help. A first step could be to visit their doctor to discuss further, and a referral for neuropsychological assessment.
  • Be supportive and use appropriate behavior management support when a person is having difficulties.
And Finally

I encourage you to have a listen to this audio interview with Colleen Butler (author and life coach). While Colleen does not fit the statistics discussed above, she eloquently describes having an undiagnosed brain injury, and the difficulties she encountered. Colleen was a successful business woman who sustained a brain injury in a car accident in 2007.

Please add any other information you are aware of in the comments below.


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