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Traumatic brain injuries and their aftermath

It is a long, hard road to recovery for the 2.6 million people who suffer brain injuries each year in New York and all other U.S. states. That number represents all brain injuries, WebMD reports, including those from natural causes such as strokes or tumors. It also includes traumatic brain injuries, which are the result of violent blows to the head.

Each year, traumatic brain injuries claim 52,000 lives, while other must struggle down that road to health. Some do not make it all the way back, adding to the number of people who need help to complete daily tasks. That number is currently about 5 million Americans.

Traumatic brain injury is the result of a violent blow that causes the brain to slam into the interior sides of the skull, back and forth and side to side. This type of injury is typically caused by car accidents, sports, falls and physical acts that may be the result of negligence or intentional violence. Shaking a baby, being hit by a drunk driver and slipping and falling on an icy sidewalk are all manners in which traumatic brain injuries can occur.

The Mayo Clinic explains that complications that can result from traumatic brain injury include brain death, vegetative state and coma. Sufferers may also experience seizures, fluid buildup and increased brain pressure, as well as nerve damage. Intellectual difficulties can present themselves as cognitive and functional problems, and there may also be changes in emotions and behaviors, along with sensory problems and a higher susceptibility to degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

After meeting emergency medical needs, rehabilitation is the next step for patients with substantial brain injuries. Depending on the extent of their injuries, patients may need one or more therapists and specialists to help them learn how to speak and walk again, manage their behavior and learn coping strategies for work and social events. If long-term care is needed, medical expenses are going to mount up, leaving patients and their families with long-term debt.

The best strategy for dealing with traumatic brain injury is prevention. People should always use a seatbelt in the car and ensure small children ride in a car seat in the back seat only. Helmets should always be worn when riding bicycles, snowmobiles, motorcycles or ATVs. Individuals can prevent falls by installing and using handrails in bathrooms and stairways, securing or removing area rugs, and using non-slip mats in the shower or tub.

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