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Dr. Protas

Traumatic brain injuries on the rise

Galveston County Daily News, May 20, 2014

By Elizabeth Protas

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of brain injuries treated in emergency departments.

A recent study analyzing data from more than 950 hospitals across the country found there were 2.5 million emergency room visits for traumatic brain injuries in 2010 - a 29 percent increase from 2006. During that same period, overall emergency room visits increased only 3.6 percent.

Concussions and injuries to the head account for most of these visits, and most patients experience relatively mild injuries and are discharged to their homes.

But others experience more severe injuries, possibly permanent disability and death. Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of death in children and young adults, especially men ages 15 to 24 and the elderly older than the age of 75.

The injuries in young people are mainly from car accidents, while the elderly injure their heads because of falls. Many of our servicemen and women are experiencing traumatic brain injuries from blast and concussive injuries. More than 5 million Americans have had a traumatic brain injury that results in the need for help in performing daily activities - that's equivalent to the population of the Greater Houston Area.

These individuals often have significant paralysis, difficulty thinking, behavioral problems, difficulty communicating - and some develop seizures.

It is estimated one-third of those in prison have a history of brain injury. Because of the long-term consequences, traumatic brain injury is being thought of as a chronic disabling condition.

Brain injuries can be prevented by wearing seat belts in the car, wearing helmets when riding bikes, skateboards and motorcycles and when skiing. Prevention is critical.

The Robert L. Moody Prize is presented annually by the UTMB School of Health Professions to honor and recognize individuals who have made significant contributions in acquired brain injury rehabilitation and research. The objective of the award is to increase national and international awareness of the need to expand and improve treatment for those who have experienced traumatic brain injury and related nervous system insults, and to provide incentives for future initiatives in clinical research, rehabilitation and support.

This award also honors the distinguished contributions of Robert L. Moody in the field of brain injury rehabilitation and research. Criteria to be considered for the Moody Prize include the total impact of a candidate's work, achievements and unique contributions, as well as recognition by peers within the scientific or rehabilitation communities. The annual award consists of a $10,000 honorarium from UTMB, a citation and an inscribed statue presented at the Moody Prize Dinner in Galveston.

The Moody Prize was awarded May 8 to Dr. Ross D. Zafonte, the Earle P. and Ida S. Charlton Professor and chairman of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School.

Zafonte's textbook is considered one of the standards in the field of brain injury care.

His laboratory work has focused on understanding mechanisms of recovery after brain and spinal cord Injury.

Zafonte intends to use the Moody Prize money to support medical resident research.

Please join us in becoming aware of the serious consequences of brain injuries and in preventing brain injuries.

Elizabeth Protas is dean of the School of Health Professions at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.