Traumatic Brain Injuries Can Result From Senior Falls

Traumatic brain injuries due to falls caused nearly 8,000 deaths and 56,000 hospitalizations in 2005 among Americans 65 years old and older, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in the Journal of Safety Research.

Traumatic brain injuries are caused by a bump or blow to the head. However, they may be missed or misdiagnosed among older adults. Traumatic brain injuries often results in long-term cognitive, emotional, and functional impairments. In 2005, traumatic brain injuries accounted for 50% of unintentional fall deaths and 8% of nonfatal fall-related hospitalizations among older adults.

Falls are not an inevitable consequence of aging, but they do occur more often among older adults because risk factors for falls are usually associated with health and aging conditions. Some conditions include mobility problems due to muscle weakness or poor balance, loss of sensation in feet, chronic health conditions, vision changes or loss, medication side effects or drug interactions, and home and environmental hazards such as clutter or poor lighting.

“Most people think older adults may only break their hip when they fall, but our research shows that traumatic brain injuries can also be a serious consequence,” said Ileana Arias, PhD, director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “These injuries can cause long-term problems and affect how someone thinks or functions. They can also impact a person’s emotional well-being.”

The study analyzed 2005 data from the National Center for Health Statistics’ National Vital Statistics System and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Nationwide Inpatient Sample. Key findings include:

  • Death rates for fall-related traumatic brain injuries were higher among men than women (26.9 per 100,000 and 17.8 per 100,000, respectively).
  • Rates for fall-related traumatic brain injury hospitalizations were similar among men and women (146.3 per 100,000 and 158.3 per 100,000, respectively).
  • Death and hospitalization rates for fall-related traumatic brain injuries generally increased with age.

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