The Brain Injury Association of America and its affiliate organizations have marked March as National Brain Injury Awareness Month in an effort to increase awareness about traumatic brain injury (TBI) prevention, care and resources.
“Brain injuries do not discriminate and can occur at anytime, anywhere and to anyone,” said Sandra Alexandrou, program director of Burke Rehabilitation Hospital’s TBI and Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Programs.
According to estimates from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 1.7 million people sustain a TBI annually and it is the third-leading cause of all injury-related deaths in the U.S. The most likely people to suffer a brain injury are children 4 years old and under, adolescents aged 15 to 19 years and adults aged 65 years or older.
The severity of TBIs can range from mild, resulting in a brief change in mental status or consciousness, to severe, where a person has an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury. Approximately 75 percent of TBIs are mild. However, repeated mild TBIs occurring over an extended period of time can result in cumulative neurological and cognitive impairments. Those that continue to recur within a short period of time—from hours to weeks—can be fatal.
As with the range of severity, TBIs can cause a wide range of functional short- or long-term changes in thinking, sensation, language and/or emotions. These include changes in memory and reasoning; touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing; communication, expression and understanding; and emotions resulting in depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out and social inappropriateness, among others.
There are numerous ways to help decrease the chances of having a TBI. Here are a few tips:
1. Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle. Seat belts save more than 15,000 lives each year. Children should always be in a child safety seat, booster seat or seat belt, relative to the child’s height, weight and age. Visit Safe Kids USA for guidelines on which safety equipment to use.
2. Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
3. Children and adults should wear a helmet when:
a.Riding a bike, motorcycle, snowmobile, scooter or all-terrain vehicle;
b. Playing a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey, or boxing;
c. Using in-line skates or riding a skateboard;
d. Batting and running bases in baseball or softball;
e. Riding a horse; or
f. Skiing or snowboarding.
4. Seniors should make their living areas safer by:
a. Removing tripping hazards such as throw rugs and clutter in walkways;
b. Using nonslip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors; Installing grab bars next to the toilet and in the tub or shower;
c. Installing handrails on both sides of stairways; and
d. Improving lighting throughout the home.
5. People living with children should:
a. Install window guards to keep young children from falling out of open windows;
b. Use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs when young children are around; and
c. Make sure the playground’s surface is made of shock-absorbing material, such as hardwood mulch or sand.
There are numerous resources available such as the CDC and the BIAA. Burke has also posted information about TBI on its Facebook and Twitter pages and will continue to do so until the end of the month.