Traumatic Brain Injury: “Touch the Brain, Never the Same”

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The Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps provides prehospital care to victims of traumatic brain injury. The most common causes of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) are vehicle crashes, falls, sports injuries, and violence. Each year 50,000 persons die from brain injuries and 80,000 to 90,000 people experience long-term disability. Thus, there is a saying used by doctors, “Touch the brain, never the same”.

TBI is defined as an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force while an acquired brain injury (ABI) is an injury to the brain, which is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma. An acquired brain injury is an injury to the brain that has occurred after birth. Examples of acquired brain injury include stroke, near drowning, hypoxic or anoxic brain injury, tumor, neurotoxins, electric shock or lightening strike.

The Emergency Medical Technicians of the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps (WVCA) are trained in using the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) to assess anyone experiencing an acute brain injury. The GCS is a standardized system used to assess the degree of brain impairment and to identify the seriousness of injury in relation to outcome.  The scale is based on three elements:

  • Eye opening (range 4-1)
  • Verbal responses (range 5-1)
  • Motor response or movement (6-1)

There are numerous types and causes of TBI and ABI, such as concussion, coup-contrecoup injury, penetrating injury, shaken baby syndrome, anoxic brain injury and hypoxic brain injury to name a few.  The severity is labeled as mild, moderate or severe.  The vast majority of brain injuries are TBIs and, therefore, in many cases preventable if appropriate safety gear is worn and/or necessary precautions are taken. Concussions account for 75% of ALL TBIs.  However, the true extent of brain injury is not conveyed by statistics.  Tragically, lives, hopes, dreams, families, and friendships are often forever altered in the wake of a brain injury. The effects of brain injuries can be profound. Individuals with severe injuries can be left in long-term unresponsive states. For many people with severe TBI, long-term rehabilitation is often necessary to maximize function and independence.  Even with mild TBI, the consequences to a person’s life can be dramatic. Injury prevention is one of the most significant health care issues in the United States. Most brain injuries can be prevented.

This March, in recognition of Brain Injury Awareness Month as well as the beginning of the spring sports season in Wilton, WVAC is working to raise awareness about traumatic brain injury. Improved prevention, recognition, and response can help address this important public health problem.

For more information about recognizing brain injury, understanding groups at high risk for brain injury and preventing brain injury through safety recommendations, please visit the Centers for Disease Control website at

It should be noted, however, that the terms “mild,” “moderate” and “severe” are used as relative terms to describe the severity of the brain injury and are not meant to trivialize the seriousness of any brain injury. WVAC cautions that this information is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or examination. A person with a suspected brain injury should contact a physician immediately, go to the emergency room, or call 911 in the case of an emergency.

The Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation.