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Traumatic Brain Injury in the Workplace

We have been writing a lot about how sports participation can increase the risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI).  Now, new research sheds some light on the causes of  TBI in the workplace.

ScienceDaily reports on an article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine about the causes and trends of fatal TBI in the United States between 2003 and 2008. The goal of the research is to identify the areas that could benefit from preventive efforts.

“While TBI is an important topic for public health researchers, there has been a lack of attention paid to the investigation of brain injuries occurring in the workplace,” commented lead investigator Hope M. Tiesman, PhD…. “With limited resources available for occupational safety and health programs, the identification and targeting of high-risk populations, including older workers, should be a priority for industry.”

The analysis showed that some jobs are definitely more hazardous than others. Nearly half of all fatal traumatic brain injuries occurred in a handful of industries: construction, transportation, agriculture, forestry (including logging), and fishing. The fatalities happened as the result of motor vehicle accidents (31%), falls (29%), assaults and violent acts (20%), and contact with objects or equipment (18%).

While motor vehicle wrecks still account for the most cases of TBI, that is actually changing. According to ScienceDaily:

The authors also found that the leading cause of fatalities has recently shifted from motor vehicle to falls. This change mirrored changes seen in overall TBI fatality rates. This effect may also be related to the “graying” of the American workforce, with employment of workers 65 and over increased by 101% from 1977 and 2007. These older workers are more susceptible to falls.

And one bit of good news in the data also appeared: Over the course of the 6-year study, occupational deaths from TBI declined by 23%.  That dry statistic equates to lives saved…and that’s always good news!

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