Along with many others, I was shocked to learn about the recent death of actress Natasha Richardson. Ms. Richardson fell while taking skiing lessons on a beginner’s slope. Although she hit her head, she reportedly got up from the fall and declined any immediate medical treatment since she didn’t lose consciousness and felt fine. But soon afterward the world learned what we at CDC already knew – even a seemingly minor bump to the head can result in a significant traumatic brain injury.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is usually caused by a bump or blow to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in TBI, yet even what appears to be a mild bump can change the way the brain normally works. Some 50,000 people die from TBI every year. For survivors, the injuries can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting memory, concentration, thinking, balance, vision, learning, language and/or emotions.
Recreation- and sports-related TBIs like Ms. Richardson’s are not uncommon. Based on information from hospital emergency departments, we’ve learned that about 200,000 sports- and recreation-related TBIs, including concussions, occur each year. The highest incidence of TBI is among children who are 10 to 14 years old, followed by those aged 15 to 19 years.
Recognizing the risk to our youth, CDC’s Injury Center – in partnership with medical, sports, and educational organizations – launched an effort to educate those involved in youth sports about the danger of concussions. We developed an initiative with information about the risk and seriousness of concussions, ways to prevent these injuries, how to recognize the symptoms, and, importantly, what to do if a concussion is suspected. Called “Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports,” the initiative contains a number of materials targeted to coaches, parents and athletes.
We can honor Natasha Richardson by helping to prevent and lessen the effects of traumatic brain injuries. Commit to be better informed about the dangers of TBI, more conscientious about preventing these injuries, and ever-diligent about protecting our youth from the adverse effects of TBI.