Brain injuries from falls a deadly risk for seniors

Mon Jun 23, 2008 1:56pm EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nearly 8,000 older Americans who fell and banged their heads died from the brain injury in 2005, according to a government study released on Monday.

Another 56,000 elderly people had to be treated in hospital for brain injuries caused by falls, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in the Journal of Safety Research.

"Most people think older adults may only break their hip when they fall, but our research shows that traumatic brain injuries can also be a serious consequence," said Dr. Ileana Arias, director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

"These injuries can cause long-term problems and affect how someone thinks or functions," she added in a statement.

In 2005, traumatic brain injuries accounted for half of the nearly 16,000 deaths from falls among seniors, the CDC found.

Each year, one in three Americans aged 65 and older falls, and 30 percent of such falls cause injuries requiring medical treatment.

Arias said that as the numerous baby boom generation hits retirement age, more people will fall and either die or require expensive hospital care.

"CDC has developed tips and suggestions for older adults, their caregivers, health care providers, and communities to help prevent falls," Arias said.

These include reducing floor clutter and providing better lighting as well as regular exercise to maintain strength and balance. More information is available here

(Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by John O'Callaghan)