How Does the Brain Get Injured? Brain Injury Epidemiology

How Does the Brain Get Injured?

By Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.

Call me at 800-992-9447

How Does the Brain Get Injured? Too often it is assumed that you who sit and wait for coma emergence, already know that answer. You may understand that your loved one is an accident, but exactly what happened, may be unclear.  This page will explain how a brain gets hurt, including the biomechanical forces which can cause brain injury.

To answer the question of “How Does the Brain Get Injured”, we must understand both the forces placed upon the head and the internal force upon the brain, inside the skull. The brain can be hurt anytime there is a blow to the head or the head hits something.  The brain can also be injured when the head experiences a whiplash motion, even without striking anything.  Such motion causes “acceleration/deceleration injury.” Yet these forces are not necessarily distinct mechanisms.  The greatest acceleration/deceleration injury is usually when the head in fact hits something, because the deceleration is so rapid.  An abrupt stop to a head rapidly put into motion, can cause the most severe of trauma to the brain.

How Does the Brain Get Injured?

This Pie Chart shows the kind of the trauma that can cause brain injury. Source CDC.

According to the CDC, the brain gets injured  most often as a result of falls, motor vehicle accidents, being struck by something and assault. Falls make up over 35% of brain injuries.  Brain injury from fall happens predominantly to children and to the elderly. Falls cause half of the brain injuries among children and 61% of all brain injury in those over 65 years of age. Unfortunately, both groups are more vulnerable to brain injury.

The head being “struck by/against” events, include being hit by something or colliding with a moving or stationary object.   This is the second leading cause of brain injury among children accounting for 25% of the total.

Motor vehicle accidents account for the second largest portion of how the brain gets injured and are also the leading cause of death from brain injury.  Motor vehicle accidents account for nearly 32% of all brain injury deaths. The reason that car accident account for a relatively larger share of severe brain injuries is that the evolutionary protective devices of the skull, work better in natural causes type accident than they do in high speed wrecks. The brain and skull evolved to protect against the foreseeable forces of falls and being hit by something. Evolution has not had enough time to protect against a 60 mph car wreck.  A cheetah is undoubtedly better able to protect itself from running into a tree at such speed than a human being thrown from a car.  Clearly, the skull provides better protection against the primitive weapon, the club, than the bullet.

For who is accountable when the brain gets injured, click here.

A complete answer to “How Does the Brain Get Injured”, requires a discussion of the what happens to the brain inside the skull, when one of the above trauma to the brain happens.

Next – How Does the Brain Get Injured – Internal Brain Damage


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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