EMS Tips

Traumatic Brain Injury (#31daysofCE)

Are you a pro football fan? Like me you have certainly noticed the increased attention to the occurance and consequences of traumatic brain injury in professional football players.

For several years the CDC has been promoting increased awareness of traumatic brain injury (what we used to call concussions) in youth sports. Their efforts have focused on athletes, coaches, parents, and healthcare providers. EMS professionals frequently provide stand-by medical care at athletic events and need to be aware of how to assess the occurrence of traumatic brain injury.

The CDC prominently displays these fast facts at its page about Traumatic Brain Injury:

  • A concussion is a brain injury and all are serious.
  • Most concussions occur without loss of consciousness.
  • Recognition and proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or even death.

Traumatic Brain Injury is not just a problem of young athletes. Geriatric patients are also at high risk of concussions from slips and falls. With slower reaction times a geriatric patient might not be able to extend a hand when they fall leading to their head striking the ground before any other body part and taken the full brunt of the fall. When assessing a geriatric patient look for signs that other body parts may have absorbed some of the impact of a fall like abrasions on the palms, bruises to the hips or shoulders, or abrasions to the knees. If the only sign of trauma is a head wound after a fall it is likely that the full force of their fall was to their head.

Learn more about geriatric traumatic brain injuries in a CDC study on the topic.

Traumatic brain injury is also the signature wound of the Iraq war. Soldiers, better protected then ever from body armor, are surviving from significant blast trauma, but are left with the immediate and lifelong impact of severe traumatic brain injury. This NPR story reports that 1 in 5 soldiers are returning from Iraq with a traumatic brain injury.

Finally, you can earn CECBEMS approved CE credit from several lessons related to this topic that are available to and CentreLearn users. Check out these lessons:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury Assessment and Treatment
  • Geriatric Patient Assessment
  • C-Spine Injuries in Athletics (this is a two part lesson that primarily focuses on football related injuries)

This is the 14th post in the Everyday EMS Tips series 31 days of continuing education.


By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.