Preventing Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can mean a temporary disruption in a person’s life, a permanent disability, or even death. Taking steps to prevent these injuries is critical to ensure all North Carolinians can live to their full potential. Young children and older adults are at the highest risk of sustaining a TBI. Common causes of TBIs include sports injuries, motor vehicle crashes, and falls.

What is a TBI?

  • TBIs can be caused by any impact to the head caused by blunt or penetrating trauma, and range in severity from mild to severe.
  • Mild TBIs, such as a concussion, can cause a variety of symptoms that can last days, weeks or even longer. These symptoms can include abnormal sleep patterns, changes in mood, difficulty thinking or remembering information, and abnormal physical responses such as vomiting or dizziness.
  • Severe TBIs can result in permanent disabilities, coma and death.1

Preventing TBIs in North Carolina
Improving Safety in Youth Sports:

  1. Enhancements to the Gfeller-Waller Concussion Awareness Act , an act that protects the safety of middle school and high school student athletes.
    • Expand the types of schools, such as private and charter schools, covered by the regulations of the Gfeller-Waller Concussion Awareness Act
    • Expand the types of sports leagues, such as intramural and recreational leagues, covered by the Gfeller-Waller Concussion Awareness Act
    • Conduct research on adding a return to learn provision that specifies when youth who have suffered a TBI can safely return to the classroom and other learning activities.

Reducing TBIs in Older Adults:

  1. Provide funding to support comprehensive falls prevention programs.
  2. Implement recommendations for preventing falls.

Reducing Motor Vehicle Crash-Related TBIs:

  1. Maintain North Carolina’s universal motorcycle helmet law. More information about the law can be found here.
  2. Increase seat belt usage through enforcement programs like Click it or Ticket.
  3. Ensure parents have the necessary tools to teach their teens how to drive and follow the Graduated Drivers Licensing laws.

Facts about TBI in North Carolina:

  • Nearly 2,000 people in NC die each year from a TBI, a large and tragic number that only begins to explain the true burden of TBIs. Over 50,000 visits to an emergency department are made each year due to a TBI.2
  • Men are considerably more likely to die from a TBI than women. Over two-thirds of all TBI deaths occur in males.2
  • Robeson County had the highest calculable mortality rate due to TBI.1 Columbus County and Anson County had the second and third highest mortality rates, respectively.2
  • The rate of unintentional fall deaths per 100,000 residents has increased by 65 percent since 2000—and continues to rise.3
  • North Carolina’s universal motorcycle helmet law is attributed to the state’s standing as number one in the nation for lives saved and money saved due to prevented injuries.4

Additional Resources:

The Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Center at UNC-Chapel Hill:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Traumatic Brain Injury

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Traumatic Brain Injury Page:

Brain Injury Association of North Carolina

For More Information Contact:
Jason P. Mihalik, PhD, CAT(C), ATC
Department of Exercise and Sport Science
313 Woollen Gymnasium, CB 8605
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
919.962.2573 (Office)


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts about Concussion and Brain Injury. Retrieved from
  2. Harmon, Katherine. The Burden of Traumatic Brain Injuries in North Carolina. 2010. N.C. Division of Public Health Injury Epidemiology & Surveillance Unit. Retrieved from:
  3. Unintentional Falls Fact Sheet, 2011. N.C. Division of Public Health Injury Epidemiology & Surveillance Unit. Retrieved from
  4. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from:

1 Of North Carolina Counties with greater than 20 deaths