Traumatic Brain Injuries - New Research

Layer of Protection for the Human Brain

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The Human Brain

A traumatic brain injury (tbi) happens when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain, and it can be very serious. There is a huge amount of research taking place at this time to try to prevent head injuries for our troops, football players, lacrosse players, skiers and motorcycle enthusiasts, to name just a few.

The human skull is designed to protect the brain and our air passages, as it contains 22 bones in the cranium and another 14 facial bones. In addition, between the skin and the bone there is a layer of tissue called the periosteum. Under the bone is the dura matter, which is where you find veins; then, there is the pia layer where you find the arteries. As you can see the brain is well protected, however, traumatic brain injuries continue to occur.

The Brain

Picture from my anatomy book
Picture from my anatomy book

National Traumatic Brain Injury Estimates

Statistics:

  • Each year, an estimated 1.7 million people sustain a TBI annually.1
  • TBI is a contributing factor to a third (30.5%) of all injury-related deaths in the United States.1
  • About 75% of TBIs that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild TBI.

By age:

  • Children aged 0 to 4 years, older adolescents aged 15 to 19 years, and adults aged 65 years and older are most likely to sustain a TBI.
  • Almost half a million (473,947) emergency department visits for TBI are made annually by children aged 0 to 14 years.
  • Adults aged 75 years and older have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalization and death.

In every age group statistics are high for males.

Concussion

The injuries that will be covered in this article are ones that involve a concussion, which are closed head injuries and usually do not involve bleeding inside the brain, plus they are not usually life threatening. If the concussion is mild, it quite possibly it will not involve a loss of consciousness, although the individual might feel dazed for a few minutes. If there is loss of consciousness it will not last long.

Other brain injury symptoms of a mild injury include:“headache confusion, light-headedness, dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, a bad taste in the mouth, fatigue or lethargy, a change in sleep patterns, behavioral or mood changes, problems with concentration, attention, or thinking.”

A severe concussion can certainly involve a longer loss of consciousness and a longer recovery time. In addition, this individual can have the above symptoms, as well as, nausea and vomiting, a more severe headache, slurred speech, dilation of one or both eye pupils, coordination loss, extremity numbness, increased confusion, agitation and restlessness. Any person with these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

Brain injury symptoms in infants and children include:

  • Changes in the sleeping habits
  • Easily irritated that is unusual
  • Nursing or eating changes
  • Persistent crying and unable to be consoled
  • Changes in the child's ability to pay attention
  • Mood is sad or depressed

Army Medics

Source

Traumatic Brain Injuries: Effects of damage to different lobes of the brain

Basic Facts about Traumatic Brain Injury

Defence Department Advances

Concussions are caused by any significant hit to the head, i.e. blunt force trauma. This can happen in a car or motorcycle accident. Sports injuries, particularly playing football, and also military injuries are being researched to help prevent the long term consequences of concussions that aren’t treated correctly, or even recognized at all.

The Defense Department has a group of specialist that are looking at brain injury, even though 84% of these injuries to troops do not occur while they are on deployment, but at home. They state most are preventable with safety precautions, such as, wearing helmets and using seat belts. On the battlefield over the past 10 years of experience they have firmly codified the identification of a traumatic brain injury. Their combat treatment facilities are state of the art. Soldiers are trained to know the symptoms of concussions. The Army and Marine Corps are now partnered with the NFL to share information. They have found that 85% of brain injury patients recover within 3 months.

Identifying Sports Injuries That Can Cause Brain Damage

Advances in Helmet Protection

Helmets have been consistently updated over the years from the traditional padding, to using a gel filled padding that is inflatable. HITS have been designing new helmets since 2006, for football players, which have embedded acelormeters (transmitters). These transmitters can estimate peak linear acceleration, rotational acceleration, impact duration and location - with a time stamp. Whether an impact with another player’s helmet or if the helmet impacts the ground, the information will be recorded.

Over these years they have recorded over a half a million impacts, with the corresponding data on head trauma. Each player transmits a different signal, even those sitting on the side lines and computers are able to monitor any trauma from hundreds of meters away. In addition, they can use the same technology to monitor dozens of soldiers simultaneously.

The study utilizing these new helmets and quantifying data of head injuries is being done through John Hopkins University in conjunction with the NFL. Their study will look at retired football players that had head injuries, as well as, monitoring current players. They want a large sample with a long term follow-up to have some meaningful data. They want to look at players that have received a number of head hits over a period of time, so they can find better ways of protecting them.

Helmet That Monitors Tempature

Source

John Hopkins Study

John Hopkins will look at three biomarkers:

  • Proteins will be measured in the blood, which are specific to brain injuries; spinal fluid monitoring will check the levels of proteins and other chemicals also.
  • Electrical signals sent by the brain will be measured using an electroencephalogram (EEG) which can identify mild brain injuries in response to a stimulus.
  • MRI imaging (or PET scans) can detect changes in the metabolism of the brain, any change in the activation patterns that can occur with even the mildest traumatic brain injury.

As for the former football players they will assess rates of neuropsychiatric disorders by age, and compare that data to the number of cumulative exposures to sub-concussive on concussive impacts sustained throughout their career. The researches will design a cohort study of retiring players for this purpose as well.

Other New Helmets on the Market

There are other very unique helmets on the market as well:

Hot Heads has introduced a new helmet being used on football players, which monitors the temperature of the whole football team and particularly during summer practice months, which is a giant step forward. Players can be pulled off the field if their temperature gets too high.

The technology involves an electric thermometer (called a thermistor), which is inserted under the padding in the helmet that actually measures the temperature of the temporal artery. A built in radio transmits the temperature to a person on the sidelines every 10 seconds, with 104° being the danger signal.

ThermaHelmhas developed a helmet for motorcycle riders, which works by triggering an endothermic chemical reaction inside the helmet lining at the moment of impact which immediately cools the head and keeps it cool until EMS arrives. This is so important, as 80% of all motorcycle fatalities occur due to head injuries.

Computer Image of Helmet's Transmtter

Source

More Amazing Helmets

HITS has also designed a helmet for firefighters to monitor their location at all times, and it monitors their well-being. The implication of this technology is enormous, when you consider all the firefighters lost at 9-11. They have also developed a helmet for skiers, which measures changes in velocity and monitors the forces experienced in the head continuously.

One more study of interest is being done at Northwestern University. They designed a new helmet which will assess the severity of an impact and convey it through a color based system. This is possible as the helmet measures acceleration with sensors that include an LCD screen which flashes different colors which will depend on how hard the hit you receive. Green means it’s a mild hit, while red means get help now. The purpose is to make sure all traumatic head traumas are treated.

Conclusion

The new technology is fascinating and not to far removed from the Terminator! New nanotechnologies are being applied to clothing, as well as, helmets. Impenetrable t-shirt weight fabrics, stronger lightweight material is being used in weapons, new vision systems are attached to helmets and there are goggles that can see through walls. Uniforms also have built in wireless communication linking a soldier to a command center or anywhere on earth are now available. The list just goes on and the speed of technology is certainly changing our world.

Research to keep people safer it so important, as you well know if you are a football fan. Those men repeatedly take hard hits, and I also thought about boxing as we have seen the results of damage with some of the best boxers in history. Enjoy life, but use safety equipment. Be safe!

Article(C) April 18, 2012 by Pamela Oglesby. All rights reserved!

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Comments 26 comments

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

A very interesting topic and so well covered. The new designs for football helmets will certainly help to provide better protection. It was interesting to know that the majority of head trauma for soldiers was at home. Enjoyed the read. Voted up.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

teaches, I am glad you found the hub informative and I appreciate your comments.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

Very informative article. I ride a bike and i have been thinking about getting a helmet. Thank you for sharing..


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Ruby, I think helmets are a very good idea for bike riders as so many drivers seem to not see them and you have no protection on a bike. I appreciate your comments.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica

I had no idea this research was going on. These new helmets will really save players some permanent damage and I am sure that very soon, motor cyclists and other persons who wear helmets will have access to them. These will definitely save some lives in the future.


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA

I just watched a show yesterday about studies that have been made on brains people who participated in boxing. It is amazing the things we do to our bodies and brains.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57416399-10...


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Cardisa, I agree and think it is wonderful that technology will save lives. Thanks for your comments.

Millionaire Tips, The choices some make are amazing. I never understood why someone would want to box but I guess that could be said for many extreme sports. I am checking the link. Thanks.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 4 years ago

Clearly we have made great strides when it comes to brain injuries but I have to be honest with you. I hope the day never comes when my grandson tells me he wants to play football. Up interesting and awesome.


Perspycacious profile image

Perspycacious 4 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

Passing along to my son who is a doctor of clinial neuro psychology. Thanks for the research. He may comment at some point, who knows?


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

BPOP, I can understand your sentiments as players do get all types of injuries. Thanks for your comments.

Perspycacious, He may know about most of these new developments but it would be nice if he did read the hub. I appreciate your comments.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina

What a fascinating, comprehensive and well researched article. I had no idea about the advances in Helmet technology or about the kinds of studies that are being done.

I particularly liked the idea of the motorcycle helmets that trigger cooling after serious impact.

Voted up, useful, awesome and interesting.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Gail, I found this topic fascinating when I was doing the research, which is why the hub is really longer than I anticipated. Thank you for your comments.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

Our son suffered a traumatic brain injury. Died on the way to the hospital. They were able to bring him back. Months in the hospital and years of recovery.

Your hub was very interesting. Voted Up.


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Very thorough research, Pamela, and fascinating details about the brain and brain injuries. So detailed that now I have the WORST headache. After I take something for it, I will return and read the balance of your hub. Promise.


farmloft profile image

farmloft 4 years ago from Michigan

Very interesting. My daughter hit her head on a tree when skiing and suffered a concussion. She got up (though she remembers none of this) and skied down the mountain the rest of the way and no one offered to help her. It took awhile for her friend and the rescue team to find her. If her helmet had turned red, other people would have realized she needed help. (She's fine now.)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

moonlake, I'm so sorry that happened to you son. You obviously know how serious head injuries are and I appreciate your comments.

drbj, I hope some Tylenol will relieve your headache. This hub does have a lot of information, which was not my original intent. There were so many interesting resources that I became quite interested in the new protective technology. Thanks for your comments.

farmloft, I am so glad your daughter is fine now. I think the skiers helmet is great, as many people are injured skiing. I appreciate your comments.


jenubouka 4 years ago

This was very interesting for me and great info on brain injury. When I was 4 years old I was ran over by a farm tractor, the front wheel ran over the nape of my neck, dislocating my brain from the stem, needless to say it was a miracle that I survived and lead a normal life. I often wonder if that accident has any effect now. Well don't ask my family or friends, they say I am a bit off.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

jenubouka, It is amazing that you did survive that accident or that you weren't paralyzed for life. I appreciate your comments.


joecseko profile image

joecseko 4 years ago from New York, USA, Earth

Great read! I suffered a TBI (subdural hematoma AND a brain contusion) in late 2005. It left my left leg paralyzed (though I can walk now), and resulting complications nearly killed me.

I'm well now, but a TBI is no joke.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

joecseko, I'm glad to know you are well now and I agree a TBI is very serious. Thanks for sharing your experience and your comments.


joecseko profile image

joecseko 4 years ago from New York, USA, Earth

You're welcome. I really enjoy many of your articles. I usually only comment when I feel I have something significant to say.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

joecseko, I appreciate your support and I'm glad you enjoy my articles.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma

A very informative hub, Pamela. I had no idea helmets are now equipped with all manner of sensors that can record and broadcast exactly what's happening to a wearer's head at any given time.

I do have to add that head injuries sustained in a war zone are **completely preventable** - don't have wars in the first place.

Voted up and awesome!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

I was surprised at the new technology when I started doing the research. Thank you for your comments.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

Pamela, A helmet with a transmitter is such a smart idea. Hopefully it will lead to some even greater tool, equipment to those who face brain injuries more often than the general population.

When my daughter was having therapy for her knee on which she had arthroscopic surgery, there was a man who came to the same therapy office who had had a severe brain injury. I do not recall what had happened. But, he often screamed out a mouthful of censored words. The therapist explained to us that it was because of his injury. Usually he was almost finished when we arrived. My daughter was in her late teens when this happened. We talked about why that was happening and just tried to not focus on it when we were at therapy.

Thanks for sharing this, Pamela.

Sending you many Angels this evening :) ps


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 3 years ago from United States Author

pstraubie, Brain injuries can surely do strange things to people. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and comments. Love the angels and sending some back to you.

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