March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the United States experiences a traumatic brain injury every 13 seconds. Traumatic brain injuries are defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the brain function after birth. Learn more about preventing these life-altering injuries.
Acquired vs. Traumatic Brain Injuries
There are two categories of brain injuries, acquired and traumatic brain injuries. Acquired brain injuries include all types of traumatic brain injuries and brain injuries caused after birth such as stroke and loss of oxygen to the brain. Brain injuries present at birth or progressive in nature, such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, are not considered a traumatic or acquired brain injury.
Traumatic brain injuries are defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the brain function after birth. The severity of a traumatic brain injury varies.
A traumatic brain injury is classified as mild if confusion and disorientation occurs for less than 30 minutes. Concussions are considered mild traumatic brain injuries. Someone with a mild injury may experience headache, difficulty thinking, memory problems, attention deficits, dizziness, mood swings, and frustration.
A severe brain injury is associated with memory loss after the injury or penetrating skull injury lasting longer than 24 hours. The deficits range from limitations in higher level brain functions to comatose states. Survivors may have functional difficulties in the arms or legs, abnormal speech or language, loss of thinking ability or emotional problems.
Can a Traumatic Brain Injury Really Happen to Me?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the United States experiences a traumatic brain injury every 13 seconds. The leading causes of traumatic brain injury are falls (40.5%), struck by or against an object (15.5%), motor vehicle accidents (14.3%), assaults (10.7%), and unknown reasons (19%).3 Unknown reasons are the result of state level variations in categorization and data systems of traumatic brain injury. From 2006–2010, falls were the leading cause of traumatic brain injury, accounting for the greatest percentage of all traumatic brain injuries in the United States that resulted in an emergency room visit, hospitalization, or death. Also, 81% of traumatic brain injuries that occur in adults aged 65 and older occurred from a fall.
Learn more from the Brain Injury Association of America >>
The use of motorcycle helmets are about 67% percent effective in preventing brain injuries during motorcycle crashes. Helmet use has declined as identified by National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s 2015 survey, motorcycle helmet use was 61 percent in June 2015, compared with 64 percent in 2014.
Similarly, bicycle helmet use has been estimated to reduce the probability of head injury by 50 percent, and the chance of head, face, or neck injury by 33 percent, and less than half the states have laws requiring cyclists to wear helmets.
#1: Prevent Traumatic Brain Injury by Wearing a Helmet
Join us during Brain Injury Awareness Month by taking an active role in reducing your family’s risk for a brain injury. Take steps to advocate for helmet use and fall prevention in the home.
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons advises individuals to purchase and use helmets or protective head gear approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Helmets should be age appropriate, sized correctly, well maintained, appropriately certified for use, and consistently worn.
Get a free helmet fact sheet that explains how to size, fit, and care for helmets for batters, bikers, equestrians, football, hockey, lacrosse, skateboard, ski, or snowboarding.
#2: Prevention Through Fall-proofing
- Inform you doctor right away if you have fallen, or if you’re afraid you might fall, or if you feel unsteady.
- Regularly review all of your medications and discuss any side effects like feeling dizzy or sleepy with your doctor.
- Have your vision checked once a year and update your glasses as needed.
Improve the safety of your home.
- Remove obstacles in walkways.
- Remove small rugs or secure them.
- Use grab bars in the bathroom.
- Use handrails on stairs.
- Provide adequate lighting and night lights.
Mercy Regional Rehabilitation Center’s continuum of care for adult brain injuries begins with trauma physicians and nurses who specialize in treatment for all types of brain injuries from concussion to major trauma in the emergency room, hospital, and acute rehabilitation center. Mercy’s outpatient therapy services have specialists in concussion management, low vision, vestibular care, communication, speech, and balance problems. Mercy’s athletic trainers are prepared to handle the needs of the athletes on and off the field in many area high schools and universities. Additionally, survivors and caregivers are able to benefit from encouragement and advocacy in Mercy’s stroke and brain injury support groups located in Stark and Tuscarawas counties.