Each year in Texas, traumatic brain injury (TBI) causes an estimated $6.8 billion worth of economic trauma in terms of deaths, emergency room visits, hospitalizations and disability, according to a study commissioned by the CORE Health Foundation. To put that dollar amount in perspective, it equals Coca-Cola's corporate profit for fiscal 2009.
"While this estimate appears large, it is at the low end of the range of costs expected to occur from TBIs in Texas every year," said Eric Makowski, a co-founder and trustee of the Austin-based CORE Health Foundation and immediate past president of the Brain Injury Association of Texas.
The study urges more funding for TBI rehabilitation, research, prevention and education.
"Money does not cure all problems, but when money is spent with a plan and a mission, the results can be significant," said Dennis Borel, board member of the CORE Health Foundation and executive director of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities. "A comprehensive effort to fund future rehabilitation, research, prevention and education programs can have lasting effects for TBI patients, families, medical care providers and society."
As the study notes, the percentage of injury-related productivity loss attributed to TBI (15.7 percent of all cases) is 14 times greater than that associated with spinal cord injuries.
The nonprofit CORE Health Foundation, founded in 2006, advocates for people with disabilities through research, public works projects and public awareness initiatives. The foundation's brain injury research is performed under the Resilient Mind brand.
The CORE-financed study estimates that 4,100 TBI-related deaths will occur this year in Texas, with lost earnings from those deaths adding up to nearly $4 billion a year. The study also estimates that:
- TBI produces 119,500 emergency room visits each year in Texas, resulting in an annual cost of $740 million.
- Costs for extensive medical treatment connected with TBI-related deaths total $186 million a year in Texas.
- TBI prompts 22,000 hospitalizations annually in Texas, leading to a yearly cost of $623 million.
- Nearly half of the TBI-related hospitalizations in Texas result in long-term or lifelong disabilities, resulting in $1.3 billion worth of annual expenses.
"As we close out the first decade of the 21st century, Texas has seen significant medical advances that can increase the rate of survival for a TBI. Unfortunately, the number of cases continues to increase, which puts added strain on the financial systems supporting these injuries," said Jim Misko, Psy.D., co-founder of the CORE Health Foundation, chairman of the Academy of Certified Brain Injury Specialists and board member of the Brain Injury Association of America.
A TBI is a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury. It disrupts the function of the brain and produces a diminished or altered state of consciousness, impairment of cognitive abilities or physical functioning, or both.
The two leading causes of TBI are falls (35 percent) and traffic crashes (17 percent). Other causes include gunshot wounds, sports injuries, workplace injuries, shaken baby syndrome, child abuse, domestic violence and military action. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics estimates 1.7 million Americans sustain a TBI every year.
The CORE-financed study, The Estimated Economic Cost of Traumatic Brain Injuries in the State of Texas, was conducted by Austin-based Actuarial Risk Management Ltd. using a variety of federal and state statistics. To read the entire study, visit www.corehealthfoundation.org/economic-impact-of-tbi.
The study makes several recommendations aimed at reducing the incidence and costs of TBI in Texas and at improving TBI care:
- Create a statewide TBI prevention awareness program.
- Promote compliance with Brain Trauma Foundation treatment guidelines among providers of medical and rehabilitation services.
- Boost state funding for the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services' Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services program. The program "has a waiting list as a result of a limited budget," according to the study.
- Require that Texas join the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's CORE State Injury Program. The program conducts TBI surveillance in 30 states, but not in Texas.
- Promote funding for research to improve TBI rehabilitation. The research should focus on such subjects as cardiovascular exercise, sleep and nutrition. Findings of the research would help insurers, the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, accreditation boards and others know what to expect of TBI rehabilitation facilities.
- Revise qualification criteria for Texas state services to take into account the characteristics and long-term needs of people with TBI.
- Encourage funding for in-home interventions to educate caregivers about preventing TBI re-injury and long-term chronic complications.
- Conduct annual meetings that provide medical professionals and others with the latest research and treatment options to enhance neuroplasticity—the brain's ability to reorganize itself.
"Examining TBI as a chronic illness that has lasting effects for multiple areas of the individual and their family's lives is the best course of future action," the study concludes.