Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) were the subject of a press conference held at the Florida Capitol Building on Tuesday. More than 50 people, including survivors of TBIs and their families, health professionals, and legislators, gathered to talk about their experiences and the need to raise awareness about brain injuries, their causes, and their prevention.
Educating the public about TBIs has become more urgent in Florida, where there has been an upward trend in the number of brain injuries occurring statewide. In 2005, approximately 93,000 TBIs occurred in Florida, resulting in more than 71,000 emergency room visits and 18,000 hospitalizations. 8,200 people suffer from long-term disabilities resulting from TBIs.
Sadly, as WCTV in Tallahassee points out, these numbers do not include Floridians in the armed forces returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. For them, blast-related brain injuries are considered the “signature wound.” Florida is also home to a large number of veterans, making it even more imperative to educate the public.
Domestically, most TBIs occur as a result of falling and striking the head (about 28%), motor vehicle accidents (about 20%), and accidental blows to the head, such as sports injuries, (about 19%).
One speaker, Thom DeLilla, who is the Bureau Chief of the Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program at the Florida Department of Health, is also a TBI survivor. DeLilla received traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries in a diving accident nearly 40 years ago.
“The general public does not recognize or understand the magnitude of the issue, including the incidence, causes and impact of traumatic brain injury,” he said. “More needs to be done to educate our communities about traumatic brain injuries, how these injuries can be prevented, what actions to take when a head injury occurs, and what programs and services are available to help,” DeLilla said.
Frank L. Toral, president of the Brain Injury Association of Florida and a legal advocate for brain injury survivors and their families, warned that even mild brain injuries can have painful and long-lasting effects on victims and those around them.
“I have personally seen the devastating impact that even mild brain injuries have on a person’s ability to relate to their loved ones, carry on a conversation with family, maintain gainful employment and overall quality of life,” Toral said.
The press conference was sponsored by the Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program of the Florida Department of Health, the Brain Injury Association of Florida and the WellFlorida Council, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness of health issues throughout the state.