Common Causes: Military and Civilian TBI


Maj Hemstad
Traumatic brain injuries can be caused by a number of events. Dr. Green, can you tell us about some of the most common events causing TBI?

Dr. Green
Of course, Dr. Hemstad. One of the most common causes of TBI is falling. TBIs resulting from falls affect young children and the elderly more often than other age groups. Falling out of bed, slipping in the shower or bath, falling down steps, or falling off ladders are common ways people injure their heads, and when the force of the fall is great enough, it can result in a TBI. In the military, falls can occur during training activities or while participating in sports or other recreational activities.

Another common cause of TBI is motor vehicle collisions. People in car accidents often bump their heads on the windshield, steering wheel, or side window. The risk of head injury is especially high for motorcyclists, who could hit their head on the ground or other vehicles if they are thrown from their motorcycle. Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of skull fractures and penetrating injuries, but a TBI can still result from the violent motion of the brain inside the skull.

Other common causes of traumatic brain injury include assaults, such as domestic violence or child abuse, and sports injuries. Sports injuries that may result in TBI can be caused by colliding with other players, striking your head on the ground or a goalpost, or being hit by a ball, stick, or puck.

Of course, all these causes are things that could happen in everyday life. Military personnel, however, often have extra risk from participating in military training exercises and being in combat zones. TBI in combat can result from motor vehicle collisions and rollover accidents, penetrating injuries from a bullet, shrapnel, or other debris, and from blast injuries, where the force of the pressure wave can cause significant damage to the brain.