Sports and the Risk of Traumatic Brain Injury

January is National Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Awareness Month, an initiative of the Johnny O Foundation intended to help educate Americans about the seriousness of traumatic brain injuries, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.


While we may not have much ice skating or any snow skiing in Florida, they are popular winter sports that you may be taking a winter vacation to enjoy. However, traumatic brain injuries and concussion can occur in any sport. In fact, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2009, these 20 sports and recreational activities contributed to the highest number of estimated head injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms (in order of occurrences):

• Cycling
• Football
• Baseball and softball
• Basketball
• Water sports (diving, scuba diving, surfing, swimming, water polo, water skiing, and water tubing
• Powered recreational vehicles (ATVs, dune buggies, go-carts, mini bikes, off-road)
• Soccer
• Skateboards/scooters
• Fitness/exercise/health club
• Winter sports (skiing, sledding, snowboarding, snowmobiling)
• Horseback riding
• Gymnastics/dance/cheerleading
• Golf
• Hockey
• Other ball sports and balls
• Trampolines
• Rugby/lacrosse
• Roller and inline skating
• Ice skating

As you can see, the risk of injury doesn’t occur with just winter sports. TBI, also known as intracranial injury, is a significant head injury, usually the result of a sudden, violent blow or jolt to the head causing the brain to collide with the skull. The result is possible bruising of the brain, tears in nerve fibers, and bleeding, and the effects can vary depending on the severity and location of the injury. Mild cases can lead to temporary confusion and headache. Serious injuries can result in unconsciousness, amnesia, disability, coma, and even death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one person in the U.S. suffers a significant TBI every 15 seconds, totaling about 2 million Americans annually. About half of these are treated and released from an emergency department; about 230,000 incur hospitalization; and 50,000 patients die. Direct medical costs and indirect costs such as lost productivity total more than an estimated $60 billion annually.

According to the Mayo Clinic, seek medical attention if you or a loved one have suffered any blow to the head, and seek emergency medical care if experiencing convulsions, repeated vomiting, slurred speech, or weakness/numbness in the arms, legs, hands, or feet.

When it comes to concussion and other traumatic brain injuries, the best defense is a best offense. Prevention is key through education, monitoring the health of athletes, practicing safety first through the use of proper equipment and head gear, following the rules of the game, and practicing safe playing and participation techniques.

Research is critical to improving the treatment of the many facets and impact of traumatic brain injuries. Meridien Research is conducting TBI research studies at our Maitland and Tampa locations. For more information or to see if you or someone you know may qualify to participate, please contact us today at 1-888-777-8839.