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The Traumatic Brain Injury Act was signed into law in 1996. Since that time, the Act has been reauthorized and updated every four years.
The Act, which seeks to reduce the incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI), requires the efforts of a number of federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Administration for Community Living (ACL).
Let’s take a closer look at the Act.
History of the Traumatic Brain Injury Act
On July 29, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 1996 into law.
Today, most Americans are at least somewhat familiar with traumatic brain injuries, but a lot less was known about them in 1996. At the time, the Act was the only federal legislation addressing TBI prevention, research, and funding.
The Act defined traumatic brain injury as:
“An acquired injury to the brain. Such term does not include brain dysfunction caused by congenital or degenerative disorders, nor birth trauma, but may include brain injuries caused by anoxia due to near drowning.”
The Act required, among other things, that the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research conduct a national consensus conference on the rehabilitation of persons with TBI. In addition, the Act authorized $3 million for each fiscal year from 1997 through 1999 for the CDC to carry out projects to reduce the incidence of TBI.
Since 1996, Congress has reauthorized the Act four times:
- TBI Amendments of 2000 (P.L. 106-310)
- Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 2008 (P.L. 111-36)
- TBI Reauthorization Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-196)
- TBI Program Reauthorization Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-377)
With each reauthorization, Congress has made a small handful of specific amendments to the Act.
Why the Traumatic Brain Injury Act matters
The current version of the Act is the TBI Program Reauthorization Act of 2018.
The TBI Program Reauthorization Act of 2018 does a number of things to help Americans impacted by traumatic brain injuries. Most notably, the Act:
- Requires the CDC to conduct research to identify effective strategies for preventing TBI.
- Authorizes the CDC to collect and analyze data regarding the prevalence of concussions.
- Implements public information and education programs for preventing TBI and for broadening public awareness about the public health consequences of TBI.
- Creates systems of support for individuals with brain injuries and their families.
- Modernizes how the federal government oversees TBI research, treatment options, and prevention measures.
- Provides grants to Protection and Advocacy (P&A) programs to ensure that individuals with brain injuries and their families have access to information, referrals, and advice; individual and family advocacy; legal representation; and self-advocacy support.
- Reauthorizes funding through 2024.
“[The Act] will help federal agencies, states, and local providers continue to conduct breakthrough research while providing support to service members on and off the battlefield, athletes on the ballfield, and patients and families across the country who are living with brain injuries,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, co-founder of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force.
Traumatic brain injury statistics
One of the things the Act does is allow the CDC to collect and analyze data in order to better understand:
- How many people are affected by TBI
- Who is most at risk
- Whether programs to prevent TBI are working
The CDC’s findings are alarming. According to the CDC, approximately 1.5 million Americans sustain a TBI every year. As a cumulative result of past TBI, an estimated 5.3 million men, women, and children are currently living with a permanent TBI-related disability.
Based on the most recent data from the CDC:
About 176 Americans died from TBI-related injuries each day in 2020.
There were more than 223,000 TBI-related hospitalizations in 2019.
About 15% of high-school students reported one or more sports-related concussions within the preceding 12 months in 2019.
Although there’s a tendency to focus on the people who have sustained a traumatic brain injury, there is a large number of family members who are tasked with caring for people living with a traumatic brain injury.
Studies show that these caregivers often experience feelings of burden, distress, anxiety, anger, and depression.
The next renewal of the Traumatic Brain Injury Act will take place in the mid-2020s.
Want to know more about traumatic brain injuries? These resources may help:
- Resources to help after a brain injury
- How to recognize a brain injury and what you should do about it
- Concussions and auto accidents
- Rehabilitation and therapy after a brain injury
- Second impact syndrome and sports injury lawsuits
- Legal guide to brain death
- A loss of oxygen can lead to an anoxic brain injury
- Can you recover costs for the accident that caused a brain bleed?
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.