mTBI, Not So Mild for the Older Generation

Last month, Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY) fell, resulting in a trip to the hospital.  “The Congresswoman is tough as nails and she will bring that same spirit to the recovery,” said her Chief of Staff at the time.  A Google search of “Louise Slaughter brain trauma” results in many links, including one entitled “Rep. Slaughter Announces Nearly $13 Million to Address Traumatic …”.  When clicking this link, however, one is directed to a now defunct personal webpage.  (A further search shows that Rep. Slaughter was a member of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, with particular attention paid to military weaponry.)

First elected to office in 1986, Slaughter was assuredly “tough as nails”, as she had to be, working in Congress and dealing with publications/broadcasters for so many years.  The first female chair of the House Rules Committee and the dean of the NY congressional delegation, Slaughter was planning on running for her 17th term.  “Louise was a trailblazer,” said Nancy Pelosi.  Unfortunately, the 88-year-old woman couldn’t recover from the intracranial hemorraging that resulted from the fall and passed away in mid-March.

Besides Rep. Slaughter, other politicians and others involved in politics have suffered such negative results from intracranial hemorraging.   Roger Ailes was a media consultant for President Richard Nixon, President Ronald Reagan, and President George H.W. Bush, as well as for Rudy Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign.  Most recently, he was CEO of Fox News until 2016 and served as a media consultant to Donald Trump’s presidential debates, before he passed away from intracranial hemorraging (subdural hematoma) in May 2017.  Additionally, one of the most respected past Presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, died of intracranial hemorraging that was either caused by cancer or by high blood pressure.

Intracranial hemorraging is an all-encompassing diagnosis for bleeding within the skull that can be further categorized as an epidural hematoma, subdural hematoma, subarachnoid hemorrhage or intracerebral hemorrhage.  It is a form of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), that isn’t mild at all.  A concussion, for example, is a mTBI.

In 2012, the CDC reported that, “in the United States, the number of TBIs that occur each year among older adults, ages 65 years and older, is estimated at 237,844.”  Falls, as what happened to Rep. Slaughter, are the primary cause of TBI among the 65+ age range.  Additionally, it’s hard to assess how severe a brain injury is the older generation, because of other age-related issues.  Is a person’s memory loss due to a brain injury or simply a consequence of age?  The number of elderly Americans suffering a mTBI keeps rising, but the reason for this increase is unknown.  Perhaps it is because Americans are living longer?  Perhaps because Americans are living in their homes and generally staying active later in their lives?  Maybe it’s because new research and talk about such issues as sport-related injuries are being more broadly researched and discussed?

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