What is a brain injury?
According to the CDC, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is "a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain." Simply put, if somebody is hit hard enough for the brain to be affected, or if something penetrates the skull and damages the brain, that is a TBI.
Traumatic Brain Injuries are classified as either mild, moderate, or severe, based on the initial and long-term effects of the injury. They are described by the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) as follows. (source)
A Mild TBI is a Traumatic Brain Injury resulting in at most brief loss of consciousness, and minor or temporary effects including, but not limited to, nausea, some memory loss, and lethargy.
A Moderate TBI is a Traumatic Brain Injury resulting in loss of consciousness up to 24 hours, accompanied by bleeding or contusions, and whose effects on the brain can be seen through neuroimaging.
A Severe TBI is a TBI that results in a coma (loss of consciousness for over 24 hours), and whose victim exhibits no sleep/wake cycle while unconscious. The effects of a severe TBI also show up on neuroimaging tests.
TBIs are incredibly common in the United States, contributing to a staggering 3 in 10 injury deaths. The most common causes include falls, automobile and motorcycle crashes, and violent assaults. High profile deaths in collegiate and professional football have also raised awareness of TBIs in sports. The statistics below are from a 2017 research study conducted by the CDC, and a 2015 research study published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.
In 2013, TBI’s contributed to 280,000 hospitalizations and 2.5 million emergency room visits.
From 2007-2013, the reported rate of Traumatic Brain Injuries rose by 47%.
In 2012, an estimated 329,290 children under 19 years old were taken to emergency rooms for sports related TBI’s.
An estimated 153 people per day die with a Traumatic Brain Injury.
How Common are TBIs?
But even mild TBI’s can be life-altering.
Many experts say that it really doesn't matter whether or not you lose consciousness. The effects of a "mild" brain injury can be anything but mild.
At the BISON Project, we agree.
All survivors of Traumatic Brain Injuries will endure many hardships. Some of these hardships are unavoidable; however, many of the most common hardships shouldn’t be so common.
The struggles of survivors are often compounded by widespread misdiagnosis, in part caused by a general lack of education and awareness regarding the nature of traumatic brain injuries in the medical field.
If you hit your head, an emergency room will often send you to get an MRI to see if you sustained any damage. If the MRI is clean, you’ll usually get nothing but pills and bills before being sent home.
What is the problem?
The problem? As mentioned above, many TBI’s never show up on an MRI.
The brain sends the signals that tell the heart to pump blood through your veins. The signals that tell your lungs to fill with oxygen for that blood to distribute. The signals that tell your kidney to filter that blood once its oxygen has been used up by the muscles that move at the brain’s command. Every single function that the body performs is performed only at the brain’s behest. It is the command deck of the human body, and the world’s most advanced computer.
So why does the brain goes so terribly underserved?
If you show up to the ER with anything from broken bones, to chest pains, to digestive issues and a fever, you’re often met with a battery of tests to determine exactly what is wrong and how to make it better. But if you show up with a TBI, an injury to the most important and complex part of the body, the part in the most need of comprehensive testing and treatment, you’re often met with a single test that physically cannot be detailed enough to properly diagnose or treat a TBI.
It doesn't make sense to us either.
This rampant misdiagnosis (or non-diagnosis) can lead to months and years of confusion, frustration, and anger. It can ruin relationships and destroy memories. It can allow the injury to get worse and worse, rendering people unable to perform basic functions like walking, talking, eating, and cleaning ourselves.
Misdiagnosis ruins lives.
Misdiagnoses ends lives.
This is the great failure that BISON aims to correct.