Brain Injury Prevention

An ounce of patience is worth a pound of brains. This Dutch proverb could apply to the Georgia church worker who fell off a ladder in the course of his duties. Rather than move the ladder, he reached too far. The ladder tipped over. He hit his head as he fell. He seemed perfectly fine. He had only been unconscious for about a minute. Unfortunately, he was not alright.

This middle-aged man lost large portions of his long-term memory. He also found that he had difficulty forming new memories. Unable to perform the simplest tasks he was not able to work to support his family. He is unlikely to recover. Brains do not usually heal from injuries of this type.

About 1.5 million people suffer from traumatic brain injuries (TBI) every year. This is 34 times as many people as are infected with HIV each year. Over 5 million people are living with the effects of TBI. That is about 2 percent of the entire population of the United States.

According to the Massachusetts Brain Injury Association the leading cause of TBI is collisions involving motorized vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians and recreational vehicles. The next most common cause of TBI is firearm use and abuse; firearms are the leading cause of TBI death. Falls, such as in our example, are the third most common cause of TBI and the leading cause in the elderly. Sports account for about 300,000, TBI’s per year. People between 15 and 24 years old and over 75 years old are most susceptible to this type of injury.

The effect suffered by the gentleman in our example is extreme, but not unheard of. Survivors may live with physical limitations, changes in vision and other senses, headache, epilepsy, changes in their personality, memory, and thinking, and emotional, behavioral and personality changes often including irritability. There is no cure available for these injuries, and most brain injuries do not shorten a victim’s life span.

Prevention is important and involves common sense measures that are readily available.

Always wear seat belts and be positive that all passengers and items are properly restrained. Never drive under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (recreational or prescription) or ride with a driver who is under the influence of these substances.

Always wear protective gear that is correct for your sport – even non-competitive sports like skiing and ice-skating. This may include helmets, mouth guards, and eye protection.

Make your home safe for younger children and older adults by removing loose area rugs, or providing handrails and non-skid floor covering where needed.

Be sure that playgrounds have enough shock-absorbing material under swings and climbing structures to soften falls.

Store firearms properly in a locked cabinet or gun safe, and keep bullets in a separate, locked location.

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