Brain Injury Awareness Month: 3 Things You Should Know

For the millions of Americans affected by a brain injury each year, believing in a way back can be hard and thinking about the road ahead can be scary. Of these individuals, approximately 270,000 sustain brain injuries classified as moderate or severe, often leaving survivors with short and long-term physical, communicative and cognitive difficulties.

As a speech therapist and multidisciplinary team member working at Magee, I am honored to have had an opportunity to work with so many strong and determined individuals and their families.  My current and former patients have shown me the true meaning of perseverance in the way they have overcome obstacles, stayed positive, and worked hard to find a way back. While every individuals experience with a brain injury is unique, for most the road to recovery is often long and tiring.

In honor of Brain Injury Awareness Month, we’ll be sharing stories and statistics about brain injury throughout March. Today, let’s start with the basics. Here are a few things you may not know.

1) Your brain controls everything. And we mean EVERYTHING.

Our brain controls everything we say, do, think, and feel while also controlling the basic functions that keep us alive and breathing. Although it weighs only about three pounds and looks like a soft, wrinkled walnut, it can store more information than all the libraries in the world!  So what happens when it’s injured? Brain injury survivors can experience changes in areas like moving, talking, thinking, and eating.

2) There are different kinds of brain injury.

Brain injuries can be separated into two main categories.

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI):  An injury caused by external force–such as a blow to the head–that causes the brain to move inside the skull and shear. Some causes of traumatic brain injury are car accidents, falls, and gunshot wounds. Concussions also fall into this category.
  • Non-Traumatic Brain Injury: Brain injuries that are not the result of an external force. Some examples include stroke, infectious disease, tumors and metabolic disorders.

Both traumatic and non-traumatic brain injuries occur after birth and can be either localized (confined to a small area) or diffuse (damage to several areas).  The symptoms experienced by each person after a brain injury are different and can vary depending on the type and severity of injury encountered.

3) Brain injuries are more prevalent — and more serious — than you may think.

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, 2.4 million people, including 475,000 children, sustain a TBI in the U.S. each year. Of those people, 275,000 (11%) will be hospitalized for their injuries and 52,000 (2%) will die from them. The impact of these injuries is far-reaching. Right now in the US, 5.3 million people are living with a lifelong disability caused by a traumatic brain injury.

In the coming weeks, we’ll share more information on how different brain injuries are treated, and share stories from brain injury survivors. In the meantime, we want to hear from you!

Are you a brain injury survivor or family member? Please share your story and let us know about your recovery!

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  • Mike Buckner

    I sustained my brain injury 16 years ago when I was 16 and what my parents and I discovered is that every injury is different and you have to treat the patient not the injury. Instead of going through the protocols of TBI recovery, really learn about the individual and their likes, dislikes, and what they enjoyed. During my rehabilitaion we tried everything from the typical rehabilitation to chiropractic and even lasers used on my head as an experimental trial. The biggest advantage we had though was our outlook. You really need to look at every step forward, no matter how small, as a big step and build upon that. Take it slow though, get the person strong enough to sit up, and then build upon that. Treat the person as if they’re a baby relearning everything all over again. I also went through manipulation to loosen my joints and help me move more fluidly.

  • Mary M

    My 19 year old son is in the UPMC Brain Injury Rehab Center, Pittsburgh, PA as I am writing this. Twenty one days ago to this day he was in neuro trauma CCU fighting for his life. As of today, he is walking, talking, eating on his own and is continent once again. Every time he wakes up he does something new again to him. Although he is not back to “normal”, I am thankful for whatever his “normal” is going to be. Encouragement and patience go hand in hand with TBIs. His story is not over, it is just beginning.

  • Magee Rehabilitation

    You’re absolutely right – a positive outlook is a HUGE advantage! Lots of little steps turn into big steps. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Magee Rehabilitation

    Mary, thank you so much for sharing your son’s story. That is truly incredible! We wish him the best of luck as he continues his recovery journey. And you are absolutely right – this is certainly not the end. We encourage you to take a look at these stories from just a few of our young patients with brain injuries – we think you’ll like them! Please let us know if there is anything you and your son need, and keep believing in a way back!