Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury for all ages. Those aged 75 and older have the highest rates of traumatic brain injury-related hospitalization and death due to falls. Doctors classify traumatic brain injury as mild, moderate or severe, depending on whether the injury causes unconsciousness, how long unconsciousness lasts and the severity of symptoms. Although most traumatic brain injuries are classified as mild because they’re not life-threatening, even a mild traumatic brain injury can have serious and long-lasting effects. Traumatic brain injury is a threat to cognitive health in two ways:
- A traumatic brain injury’s direct effects, which may be long-lasting or even permanent, and can include unconsciousness, inability to recall the traumatic event, confusion, difficulty learning and remembering new information, trouble speaking coherently, unsteadiness, lack of coordination and problems with vision or hearing.
- Certain types of traumatic brain injury may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia years after the injury takes place.
Symptoms of a brain injury include:
- Inability to remember the cause of the injury or events that occurred Immediately before or up to 24 hours after
- Confusion and disorientation
- Difficulty remembering new information
- Blurry vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Ringing in the ears
- Trouble speaking coherently
- Changes in emotions or sleep patterns
The severity of symptoms depends on whether the injury is mild, moderate or severe.
- Mild traumatic brain injury, also known as a concussion, either doesn’t knock you out or knocks you out for 30 minutes or less. Symptoms often appear at the time of the injury or soon after, but sometimes may not develop for days or weeks. Mild traumatic brain injury symptoms are usually temporary and clear up within hours, days or weeks, but they can last months or longer.
- Moderate traumatic brain injury causes unconsciousness lasting more than 30 minutes. Symptoms of moderate traumatic brain injury are similar to those of mild traumatic brain injury but more serious and longer-lasting.
- Severe traumatic brain injury knocks you out for more than 24 hours. Symptoms of severe traumatic brain injury are also similar to those of mild traumatic brain injury but more serious and longer-lasting.
If you or someone you’re with experiences an impact to the head and develops any symptoms of traumatic brain injury, seek medical advice even if symptoms seem mild. Call emergency services for anyone who is unconscious for more than a minute or two or who experiences seizures, repeated vomiting or symptoms that seem to worsen as time passes. Also seek emergency care for anyone whose head was injured during ejections from a vehicle, who was struck by a vehicle on foot, or who fell from a height more than 3 feet. Even if you don’t lose consciousness and your symptoms clear up quickly, a brain injury still may have occurred.
Matter of Balance Classes
If you are worried about falling and the risks associated with falling, you may consider taking a Matter of Balance class. This series teaches you about core strength and how to fall correctly. Visit www.caregiverUCenTX.org to find a class near you!
Traumatic Brain Injury
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes
Center for Disease Control and Prevention