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For Release:
October 27, 2004

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160

Central Nervous System Injuries in New Jersey in 2000


          TRENTON -- Each year, 8,000 New Jersey residents suffer serious central nervous system (CNS) injuries, and nearly 1,000 die as a result.  Motor vehicle accidents and falls are among the leading causes of injury and death, according to a report released by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services.

          New Jersey is one of 12 states funded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct central nervous system injury surveillance for a national data system. 

          “Central nervous system injuries are among the most serious types of injuries.  They are often fatal or can lead to disability requiring continuing treatment and support,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.  “This report highlights the need for vigorous prevention efforts as well as targeted research to develop better treatments for people living with these serious injuries.”

          The state’s Central Nervous System Injury report, which will be released annually, summarizes the incidence of two types of injury in 2000 -- traumatic brain injury (TBI) and spinal cord injury (SCI) requiring hospitalization of the victim or resulting in death.  Serious TBI includes skull fracture, concussion or loss of consciousness.  SCI is damage to the spinal cord that can result in loss of function such as mobility or feeling.  The report does not include less serious brain injuries where the person did not seek medical care, or was treated and released from the emergency department.

          In 2000, 8,006 people suffered serious traumatic brain injury and 257 suffered spinal cord injuries.  Of those with SCI, 69 also had a brain injury.   There were 990 deaths as a result.

          Central nervous system injury has the greatest impact on the elderly.  Not only do they have the highest central nervous system injury rates of any age group, people age 65 and older are also more likely to die as a result of their injuries. Eighteen percent of TBIs to the elderly were fatal – a higher rate than any other age group.

          Although motor vehicle accidents have declined steadily in the state and nation in the past several decades, transportation-related accidents remain the leading cause of central nervous system injury for the state as a whole, with 3,085 such injuries reported in 2000. Most of those injured were motor vehicle occupants, but motorcyclists, pedestrians and bicyclists are also at risk.  Falls accounted for 2,878 injuries, 674 were related to assault, 185 were from self-inflicted injuries and the remainder were due to unknown or other causes.

          The following are additional highlights from the report:


Motor Vehicle Injury

  • Six southern New Jersey counties and Mercer County have the highest age-adjusted TBI rates from motor vehicle crashes – more than 60 percent higher than the state as a whole.  This is related to the higher rates of such accidents in the southern part of the state.

  • Males age 15 to 24 have the highest rate of TBI related to motor vehicle accidents of any age group – even higher than men age 85 and older (89.8 vs. 85.2 per 100,000 population).

  • Of all racial and ethnic groups, blacks have the highest rate of TBIs from motor vehicle accidents (38.6 for Blacks vs. 32.4 overall state rate per 100,000).

  • Blacks also have the highest rate of injury as pedestrians in vehicle-pedestrian accidents (10.8 for Blacks vs. 6.3 for Hispanics per 100,000 population).

  • Hispanics have the highest rate of fatal TBIs due to motor vehicle accidents (3.9 for Hispanics vs. 3.1 for all races combined per 100,000 population).


  • The elderly are disproportionately affected by central nervous system injury, mainly due to an increased incidence of falls.  Rates of TBI from falls are five times those of any other age group (143.5 for the elderly vs. 23.2 for age 15 and under, the next highest group, per 100,000 population).

  • For children under 15 years of age, falls are also the leading cause of injury.  Falls account for 40 percent of all TBIs in this age group.

Intentional Causes

  • Blacks have highest rates of TBI due to assault.  Their rate is twice that of any other racial/ethnic group (23.3 for Blacks vs. 11.6 for Hispanics per 100,000 population).

  • Blacks make up less than 15 percent percent of New Jersey’s population, but suffer 17.5 percent of spinal cord injuries, largely due to an excess of intentional injuries.  Many of these are assaults with firearms.

  • Self-inflicted injury is the least common cause of TBI for all racial/ethnic groups. Rates of self-inflicted TBI are highest among whites, and are usually caused by firearms (2.5 per 100,000 for whites.  The number of injuries is too small to calculate reliable rates in other populations).

           In addition to conducting CNS injury surveillance, the department maintains a registry of central nervous system injury data.  The New Jersey Commission on Spinal Cord Injury Research and the recently formed New Jersey Commission on Traumatic Brain Injury Research provide funding to New Jersey researchers working in the areas of treatment and improved outcomes for those with central nervous injuries. In addition, the two Commissions support the central nervous system injury registry in order to aid prevention efforts.

          The full report may be viewed at

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