Accidental trips and falls in later life are now the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) worldwide, a major study has revealed.
The research, published by the BG University Hospital in Germany, suggests that ageing is also behind a hike in the total number of brain injuries recorded and an increase in the average severity of brain injuries.
According to the study – the first on epidemiology and causes of traumatic brain injury in over 20 years – more than 3,500 patients who had suffered a mild, moderate or severe brain injury between October 2014 and September 2015 were involved in the research.
Over the course of the study, doctors observed and evaluated the development, treatment and impact of each patient.
It was found that the leading cause of these injuries were accidental falls – surpassing road traffic accidents.
The researchers also found that brain injuries are increasing among the over-65 age group, which is leading to more complications and deaths caused by TBIs.
While most mild brain injuries can be treated without lasting side effects, moderate and severe brain injuries can be problematic and potentially life changing.
Commenting on the findings, lead author Professor Peter Schwenkreis said the trend could be observed in “almost all industrialised countries”.
“We are registering a clear shift in the majority of the affected age group towards the older generation,” he said.
“Older people are significantly more prone to falls and thus suffer a traumatic brain injury more quickly than other age groups. In addition, the severity of the injury is higher in these patients.”
He added: “This also explains why we are seeing an increase in deaths caused by such an injury in this age group.”
According to the latest statistics, there were 348,000 admissions to UK hospitals with an acquired brain injury in 2016-17 – the latest data available.