Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Leading Causes of TBI1

There are several studies determining the leading causes of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the U.S., and while the percentages attributed to the causes may vary, the studies are unanimous regarding the order of causes: 1) falling event; 2) motor vehicle accident; 3) struck by/against events; 4) assaults; and 5) other causes.

Although the Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides data regarding a wide range of traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases, it is practically impossible to take into account every single case of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the U.S. The reason for that is because there is no estimate for the number of people with non-fatal traumatic brain injury (TBI) seen outside of a hospital or emergency department, or who receive no care at all.

Every year, approximately 1.7 million people report sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that every year there are approximately:

  • 595,095 fall-related TBI
  • 292,202 Motor Vehicle related TBIs
  • 279,882 struck by/against related TBIs
  • 169,625 assault related TBIs
  • 199,447 unknown causes
  • 155,255 injuries classified as “other”


Worker falling on wet floor inside building

Falls (35.2%)
The CDCP reports that close to 600,000 — just over one third — of traumatic brain injuries are the result of falls.  Falls also account for a majority of traumatic brain injuries among infants, children, and elderly adults. A slip and fall accident can occur anywhere like your home, a grocery store, a hotel, a resort, or in a public space.


Accident With Two Cars

Motor Vehicle Accidents (17.3%)
Motor vehicle crashes and traffic-related incidents are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury among all age groups. Nearly 200,000 brain injuries a year are the result of motor vehicle accidents. These injuries also result in the largest percentage of TBI related deaths (32%).


American Football

Struck by / against (16.5%)
These injuries are the result of being unintentionally struck by another person or an object — including falling debris or being struck against an object or person. This includes colliding with a moving or stationary object. It also includes sports and recreation-related injuries. Most of these injuries are mild and receive no hospital or emergency treatment. Being struck by or against an object is the third leading cause of TBI in the general population, and the second leading cause of TBI in infants and children.



Assaults (10%)
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by assault (including firearm use) is the leading cause of deaths related to TBI. Approximately 90% of patients with a firearm-related TBI die. For military personnel in war zones, the leading cause of TBI are blasts.


Unknown & Other (21%)
This category includes all brain injuries in which the emergency department report does not pinpoint the exact cause of the injury. It also includes any other injury that does not fall under any of the previous categories, such as injuries resulting from electrocution, fireworks, exposure to radiation, welding flash burn, or animal attacks, among others.

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