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When a Bump on the Head is More than a Bump on the Head

A Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, or a penetrating (piercing) head injury. TBIs disrupt the normal function of the brain and can range from mild to severe and have short-term and long-term effects that can change the way a person thinks, acts, moves and feels.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, estimates 1.5 million Americans sustain a brain injury each year. As a result of these injuries:

230,000 people are hospitalized and survive.

50,000 people die.

80,000 to 90,000 people experience the onset of long-term disability.

The risk of sustaining a TBI is highest among teens, young adults and those older than 75 years. The risk of sustaining a TBI is twice as high among males as it is among females.

The CDC reports that falls account for almost half (47 percent) of all TBI-related emergency department visits, hospitalization and deaths. Falls are the leading cause of TBIs among the elderly. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of TBIs that result in hospitalization and long-term rehabilitation. Violence, especially suicidal attempts and assaults that involve firearms, are the leading cause of TBI-related death.

After Sustaining a TBI

Rehabilitation is an important part of the recovery process for a TBI patient. The goal of rehabilitation therapy, commonly called rehab, is to help patients regain their physical or cognitive (mental) abilities so they can return home at their highest level of independence.

Depending on the severity of the injury, TBI patients may need a few days, weeks or months of rehab, which can include physical, speech, occupational and behavioral therapies. The more severe the injury, the longer the recovery period. The longer the recovery period, the more long-term effects are likely.

What Happens in Rehab?

There are several levels of rehab for TBI patients; not all patients need all levels:

Acute rehab: Focuses on as many activities of daily living as possible, such as dressing, eating, using the bathroom, walking and speaking.

Post-acute rehab: The goal is to help the patient become as independent as possible. Patients undergo three to six hours of therapy per day. This type of comprehensive rehabilitation in a post-acute facility is considered the gold standard for care and treatment following brain injury.

Sub-acute rehab: Sub-acute rehab programs are designed for those who need less intense rehab over a longer period of time. These patients have made progress in an acute rehab setting and are still progressing, but are not making rapid functional gains. Sub-acute rehab is often provided in a skilled nursing facility or nursing home.

Outpatient Therapy: Following inpatient rehab or for those individuals whose injuries were not severe enough to require hospitalization, outpatient therapies help the patient maintain and enhance his or her recovery.

Rehabilitation in Northern Arizona 

The highest quality rehabilitation care is available right here in Northern Arizona – no need to leave home. The newly opened Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona located on McMillian Mesa is the only rehabilitation hospital in the region, serving all of Northern Arizona. 

A short-term acute inpatient rehab hospital, the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona, can help speed the recovery process following a TBI or other injury. Short-term rehab focuses on rebuilding strength, retraining muscles, regaining speech and rewiring the brain. Treatment plans are individualized and most patients participate in a minimum of three hours of physical and occupational therapy a day. 

The 40-bed rehabilitation hospital provides intensive rehabilitation services to people recovering from disabling diseases or injuries, such as strokes, brain, spinal cord and orthopedic injuries. For more information, visit rhna.ernesthealth.com or call 928-774-7070. Follow on Facebook at Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona. FBN

By Richard Holt, D.O.

Richard Holt, D.O., is the medical director at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northern Arizona. Dr. Holt specializes in helping patients recover from injury or disease and live the highest quality of life possible.  For more information, visit RHNA.ernesthealth.com. 1851 North Gemini Drive • Flagstaff, AZ  86001 • 928-774-7070 •


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