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CDC Injury Center: Director's View Blog

The purpose of this blog is to foster public discussion about injury and violence prevention and response and gain perspectives of those we serve.

Take Action to Protect Our Youth from Traumatic Brain Injury

Categories: Traumatic Brain Injury

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.  

Learn the signs and symptoms of TBI and order materials today for yourself, your coach, and your athlete.

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this blog is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. April 7, 2009 at 4:02 pm ET  -   Cindy Saylor

    I would like to see more education about children wearing helmets when they ride a bike.

    You stated that “The highest incidence of TBI is among children who are 10 to 14 years old, followed by those aged 15 to 19 years” and yet parents still do not TEACH their children the importance of wearing a helmet when they ride a bike. I don’t think parents realize what can happen. The majority of children in my community do not wear a helmet or do not wear it properly. I am stunned to hear parents say “I can’t get my child to wear a helmet, I guess he will learn when he falls and hits his head on the pavement.” We need to educate parents and children about the importance of wearing a helmet and what can happen when your child does hit his head on the pavement. I am a parent of 3 children who ALWAYS wear a helmet and who understand the importance of wearing one. My children are the ones who notice when others are not wearing one. My oldest child is 17 years old and still wears a helmet, of course, my husband has set a good example by always wearing a helmet too.

    A child in our community lost her life when she was riding a bike in her neighborhood without a helmet, she fell and hit her head on the curb. Parents talked about making their children wear a helmet but all too soon stopped enforcing it. What does it take for adults to realize (or remember) the importance of teaching your child to protect themselves! Maybe we should start by educating children so they are the ones telling their parents that they need a helmet.

    If this is problem in my community I’m certain that it is in most communities. Just drive through neighborhoods and see for yourself how many children have helmets on.

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  2. April 7, 2009 at 4:05 pm ET  -   Sylvia Gafford-Alexander

    I would like to also suggest that we begin to pay more attention to injuries that occur when children less than three years of age are dropped, shaken, fall, bump into things, acts of child abuse, etc.; these acts/incidents may result in brain injuries that are often undiagnosed/untreated and that may later manifest themselves in pre-school and kindergarten as disruptive behavior, inability to pay attention, limited social skills, etc. In addition, these children, left without interventions, may be more likely to drop out of school, have poor school outcomes, and become involved in the juvenile justice system.

    All cases of babies being shaken do not end up in medical settings or get reported to protective services. Moreover, many parents tend to forget falls, bumps, babies and young children being dropped, etc. I also often wonder about the extent to which undiagnosed brain injuries are contributing factors in the upsurge in behavior related suspensions of kindergarteners; thus my suggestion that we begin to pay more attention to this age group.

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  3. April 7, 2009 at 5:46 pm ET  -   Shaun Best

    Dear Dr. Arias, Ph.D.:

    I’m the survivor of 38 known brain injuries, not counting the five years my head was a target for red & green tomatoes.

    I was a substitute teacher until the noise the children made in the classroom proved to be to loud for me to handle. As you know head injuries cause the ears to be very sensitive to noise. Can you somehow promote that survivors of brain trauma can be productive citizens, with accommodations, especially since our veterans will need this care? I’ve failed again. My employer fired me because I lost control of the classroom, needless to say, I’d been trying to teach for over 15 years. However, I was successful in teaching for more than 150 days over 1 1/2 years. My employer was SubTeachUSA 870.236-3257 (Mandy). If I’m unemployed then how many of our veterans will be forced to live life from the sidelines? Is this American?

    I think a large component that sidelines those with traumatic brain injuries is the negative educational self-fulfilling prophecy labeling with harsh (pessimistic explanatory learning style) terms like disabled, retarded, handicapped, etc., rather than (optimistic explanatory learning style) terms like challenged, challenges, multiple intelligences, differently-abled, etc. For more on the optimisitic & pessimsitic explanatory learning style visit the Positive Psychology Center, Dr. Martin EP Seligman, Ph.D.

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  4. February 22, 2010 at 2:57 am ET  -   Lisa

    When a person sustains a Traumatic Brain Injury they often are seen in the ER of a hospital and then transferred to ICU/CCU or more often sent home. It is known as the silent injury. My husband was injured in 2005 and I had to fight each step of the way to allow the opportunity for him to succeed while in recovery stages of TBI. For that reason I started Brainstorming 4 Us that offers education and support to survivors and caregivers of Traumatic Brain Injury. Our goal is to educate the public in order to minimize the chances of receiving a TBI or support the survivor/families that are dealing with this life altering injury. I read the other posts and everyone is correct not enough people do educate the public to make changes but there are some of us out there. If you would like to visit our web site and learn about Traumatic Brain Injury please visit

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  5. March 15, 2010 at 10:45 pm ET  -   Timothy Shaver

    Dear Dr Arias,

    Thank you for the information CDC is providing regarding concussions in Youth Sports and for the work with USA Football this year. My only concern is that with more and more information becoming available about the longterm effects of repetitive brain injury, the CDC has not published stonger guidelines for avoidance of repeat injuries suffered in yoth sports. It seems the best guidelines written for the public and coaches in youth sports is to allow medical personnel to determine when to resume activity and when it is allowed to do so gradually. Unfortunately, we don’t really know if 1, 2, 3 weeks is sufficient even when symptoms have abatted, or if longer time intervals have a postive effect on recovery. Should we allow 7-12 year old boys to resume contact in football, lacrosse or other sports during the same season?? Would three months be better than 3 weeks?? Studies from North Carolina, Boston and Pitssburgh suggest we are not protecting our youth by allowing them to returm too soon.

    Should the CDC not lead the way and try to address this to protect children from coaches, overly aggressive parents and kids who think they are weak if they don’t play or that it will hurt their chances of being the next NFL star??

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  9. July 5, 2012 at 1:06 am ET  -   Denese Lickley

    I’m amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is an issue that not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I found this during my hunt for something relating to this.

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