Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

ATV with rider wearing helmet and safety gear

“Let’s just say that life after my husband’s brain injury turned out very differently than we expected. We don’t have a husband or father who works full-time and understands all of life’s complex decisions, but we’ve made adjustments and learned how to cope.”

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of a TBI may range from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury1.

Brain injuries can happen to anyone, regardless of age and situation.

Traumatic brain injuries can have a dramatic impact on a person’s ability to lead an active, fulfilling life. TBIs can affect an individual’s ability to work, as well as his or her short- and long-term memory, vision, sleep, mood, and movement.

Utah Stats

  • Every day in Utah, 25 people are treated and released from an emergency room due to a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Another 6 are hospitalized and one person dies each day from a TBI.2
  • Approximately one out of every 14 Utah households has an individual who sustained a TBI.3
  • In one year, 6,228 Utahns were treated for a concussion.4
  • Of these, 41.7% were due to sports/recreation activities, 25.7% of those were among teens ages 15-19 and 22.6% were among children ages 10-14.4
  • Three students suffer a concussion every day at school.5

TBI Database

Since 1990, the Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Violence and Injury Prevention Program (VIPP) has collected data on TBI in Utah through review of hospital discharge data, death certificates, and hospital records. TBIs are included in the database when they result in hospitalization or death with one or more of the following:

  • Observed or self-reported unconsciousness or decreased level of consciousness;
  • Amnesia;
  • Skull fracture;
  • Changes in motor function, sensory function, reflexes, or speech; or
  • Seizures; hemorrhages, bruising, or other trauma to the brain.

We all have unique brains, which means that injuries to this vital organ will affect each of us differently.

Caring for a loved one recovering from a head injury is a selfless act, but it’s also challenging—and at times, even overwhelming

Chances are you have a lot more questions than answers, especially when a person you care about seems so different after their injury. The Utah Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Fund offers free coaching services to TBI survivors, and can help eliminate some stress on family members. Our brain injury experts understand the challenges you’re facing as a caregiver, and can help you find the information and resources you need to best support your loved one’s definition of success.
Talk to someone who understands how to help.

The TBI Fund was established by the Utah State Legislature to help Utahns who have suffered from a TBI. The TBI Fund is overseen by the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, and we work closely with brain injury experts in the community. Our caring, trained brain injury experts can help you find the resources you need to facilitate your loved one’s return to work, school, hobbies, and other activities through a process called resource facilitation. Call us for free information about the best way to support the recovery process, and to determine if the loved one you’re caring for is eligible to receive other free services like neuropsychological testing or ongoing coaching. Our brain injury coaches will help your loved one set goals and figure out what assistance is need to reach those goals. They will contact your loved one every week to see how things are going and offer encouragement and help.

Recovering from a head injury is both frustrating and difficult. But there is hope. Things can get better—and you’re not alone.

Your path to recovery will be much smoother with the right support. The Utah Traumatic Brain Injury Fund offers free coaching services to recovering traumatic brain injury survivors. Our brain injury coaches understand what you’re going through, and they can answer your questions and help you find the information you need to keep making progress and reach your definition of success.

Couple on bicycles close together

Causes of TBI in Utah

There were over 64,000 TBI-related deaths in the United States in 2020.6 That’s about 176 TBI-related deaths every day.

TBIs affect the lives of people of all ages. Anyone can experience a TBI, but data suggest that some groups are at greater risk of dying from a TBI or experiencing long-term health problems after the injury. Examples of groups who are more likely to be affected by TBI, include:

  • Racial and ethnic minorities7
  • Service members and Veterans8
  • People who experience homelessness9
  • People who are in correctional and detention facilities10
  • Survivors of intimate partner violence11
  • People living in rural areas12

Learn more about health disparities and TBI.

The leading causes of TBI hospitalizations and deaths in Utah in 2017-2018 were:

Signs and Symptoms of a TBI

Some signs of a TBI may include:

  • Headache or neck pain that won’t go away.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Lack of energy/tired.
  • Ringing in the ears.
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
  • Loss of balance.
  • “Hurt” by loud noises or bright lights.

Some changes in behavior from a TBI may include:

  • Easily irritated; aggressive.
  • Mood changes: feeling sad, anxious.
  • Not interested in things that used to be enjoyed.
  • Confused, get lost easily.
  • Slow in thinking, speaking, or reading.
  • Hard time getting organized.
  • Hard time making decisions and solving problems.
  • Hard time paying attention.
  • Forgetting things that happened a few minutes or days ago.
Child and adult looking at laptop on a couch

Ways to Prevent a TBI

  • Always wear a helmet during sports, bike riding, horse riding, etc.
  • Encourage family, friends and community members to wear helmets.
  • Always wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a vehicle.
  • Increase in seat belt usage through policies, laws, or education.
  • Decrease in driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs through policies, laws, or education.
  • Support falls prevention initiatives.
  • Support school policies that protect athletes “return to play.”
  • Increase education on concussion prevention.

For questions about TBI contact: 

Traci Barney
Violence and Injury Prevention Program
Utah Department of Health and Human Services
288 North 1460 West
PO Box 142106
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-2106
(385) 260-4525

Daniel Musto
Violence and Injury Prevention Program
Utah Department of Health and Human Services
288 North 1460 West
PO Box 142106
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-2106
(385) 242-5820



  1. CDC Traumatic Brain Injury
  2. Utah Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Indicator Based Information System (IBIS). Health Indicator Report of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Accessed 5/17/2021: /
  3. Utah Department of Health and Human Services, Violence and Injury Prevention Program, Traumatic Brain Injury Surveillance Program.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Report to Congress on mild traumatic brain injury in the United States: Steps to prevent a serious public health problem. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2003.
  5. Utah Department of Health and Human Services. Student Injury Reporting System. Access:
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics: Mortality data on CDC WONDER. Available at:
  7. Daugherty J, Waltzman D, Sarmiento K, Xu L. Traumatic brain injury–related deaths by race/ethnicity, sex, intent, and mechanism of injury — United States, 2000–2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep2019;68(46):1050-1056.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, and Veterans Administration. Report to Congress on traumatic brain injury in the United States: Understanding the public health problem among current and former military personnelAtlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2013.
  9. Stubbs J, Thornton A, Sevick J, et al. Traumatic brain injury in homeless and marginally housed individuals: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Public Health. 2020;5(1):e19-e32.
  10. Durand E, Chevignard M, Ruet A, Dereix A, Jourdan C, Pradat-Diehl P. History of traumatic brain injury in prison populations: A systematic review. Ann Phys Rehabil. 2017;60(2):95-101
  11. St Ivany A, Schminkey D. Intimate Partner Violence and Traumatic Brain Injury: State of the Science and Next Steps. Fam Community Health. 2016;39(2):129-37.
  12. Chapital A. Traumatic brain injury: outcomes of a rural versus urban population over a 5-year period. Hawaii Med J. 2007 Dec;66(12):318-21.