By Allison Hoit
September is National Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month. Traumatic brain injury, also known as TBI, is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that impairs the normal function of the brain¹. An object penetrating the skull can also cause a traumatic brain injury. The effects of a TBI can be short-term or translate into disability affecting the rest of one’s life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the years from 2006 to 2010, the leading causes of TBI were contributed 40 percent from falls, 15 percent from unintentional blunt trauma, 14 percent from motor vehicle crashes, 10 percent from assaults, and 19 percent from other unknown occurrences¹. In addition to the general population, 19 percent of veterans may have a traumatic brain injury and over 260,000 veterans from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) have been diagnosed with TBI³. Traumatic brain injury in the United States is a growing public health issue where training of health and fitness professionals is needed to ensure welcoming environments for promoting all aspects of health among persons with TBI.
Physical activity is for everybody and persons with TBI can reap the benefits of an active lifestyle resulting in important health implications². A review of literature assessing the effectiveness of endurance training programs for individuals with TBI reported that common characteristics among this population are a sedentary lifestyle and lack of endurance². Due to the increased prevalence of secondary conditions and development of chronic disease in people with disability, more emphasis on physical activity as a preventative measure against chronic disease is encouraged in patients recovering from TBI². As a result, training and education on how to safely and effectively administer physical activity for persons with TBI should be addressed.
Prior to beginning an exercise program, individuals with TBI should first undergo an examination by their physician to screen for any secondary conditions or impairments that may contraindicate, limit, or cause adverse effects during physical activity. Physical activity guidelines for the general population can be applied to individuals with TBI, while tailoring certain aspects to promote success in addressing physical characteristics that are often present and functional fitness for improving quality of life.