March is Brain Injury Awareness Month in the United States, and it’s important to understand the leading causes of traumatic brain injury (TBI), how to prevent them, and what steps to take if you or a loved one suffers a brain injury.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), TBI is a serious public health problem. About 176 Americans die each day of TBI-related injuries, and every year more than 5.3 million Americans live with brain injury-related disabilities. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the leading causes of TBI, how to prevent them, and what to do if you or someone you know experiences a brain injury.
What is a traumatic brain injury?
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as an alteration in brain function or other evidence of a head injury resulting from an external force. It can range from mild to severe and can cause a wide range of physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral effects.
Leading causes of TBI
The leading causes of TBI are falls, motor vehicle crashes, being struck by or against an object, and assaults. Falls are the most common cause of TBI, especially for children under 14 and adults over 65.
Motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury, and wearing a seatbelt is the best way to prevent a TBI in a car accident. When you’re driving, always make sure that everyone in the car is wearing a seatbelt and that it fits properly. For children, it’s important to use a car seat or booster seat that is appropriate for their age, weight, and height.
Brain injury occurs when a person is struck by or against an object. Wearing a helmet when participating in activities like sports and biking can help reduce the risk. It’s also important to be aware of your surroundings when outdoors and avoid risky behaviors such as horseplay.
Assaults are another leading cause of damage to the brain, and it’s important to be aware of your personal safety. If you feel like you are in danger or if someone is threatening you, reach out for help.
How to prevent TBI
The best way to prevent a traumatic brain injury is to practice safe behaviors and be mindful of your environment. Here are some ways to prevent traumatic brain injury:
- Always wear a seat belt when driving or riding in a motor vehicle
- Make sure children are properly restrained in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts appropriate for their age and size
- Wear a helmet when participating in sports, riding a bicycle or motorcycle, or engaging in other activities that carry a risk of head injury
- Use appropriate safety gear when playing contact sports, such as football, hockey, or lacrosse
- Prevent falls by using handrails on staircases, keeping floors free of clutter, and installing grab bars in bathrooms
- Use window guards to prevent falls from windows, especially in homes with young children
- Install and use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs for young children
- Keep firearms locked and stored separately from ammunition
- Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Avoid distracted driving, such as texting or using a phone while driving
- Ensure that playground equipment is safe and properly maintained
- Take steps to prevent and treat osteoporosis, which can increase the risk of falls and fractures
What to do if you or someone you know experiences a TBI
If you or someone you know has a blow to the head or other type of injury that could result in a TBI, it’s important to seek medical attention right away. Even a mild TBI, also known as a concussion, can have serious long-term effects on brain function. Symptoms of a TBI can include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Persistent headaches
- Repeated vomiting or nausea
- Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
- Memory problems
- Changes in mood or behavior
A doctor will assess the severity of the injury using CT scans or MRI, and recommend the most appropriate form of treatment.
If your doctor determines that the TBI is mild, they may advise you to rest and take it easy for a few days. Your doctor may also suggest medications to reduce swelling and inflammation caused by the injury.
For more serious cases of TBI, surgery or rehabilitation might be recommended. Surgery is often used to remove damaged tissue or relieve pressure on the brain caused by swelling. Rehabilitation may involve physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and other types of therapy to help improve balance, coordination, and strength after a TBI.
A support group can also provide emotional support and practical advice for coping with the challenges of a brain injury.
If you or a loved one has suffered a moderate to severe TBI, the road to recovery can be long and challenging. But it’s important to remember that there are resources available to help individuals with TBIs lead productive lives.
Brain injury care and support
No matter the severity of a TBI, it is essential to seek ongoing care and support. It’s important to follow up with your doctor regularly and to be aware of any new symptoms that may arise. If you are caring for a family member or someone with a TBI, be sure to monitor their progress and alert their health care team if you notice any changes in their condition.
For individuals with TBIs, support groups can be a great source of emotional and practical help. Support groups provide an opportunity to connect with others who have experienced similar brain injuries, as well as access to information about resources and treatments that may be helpful.
Brain injury research is also helping to improve awareness and understanding of how best to treat and care for individuals with TBIs. Research has led to the development of newer treatments and technologies that can help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
Seek immediate medical attention
Let’s all take steps to raise awareness for brain injury prevention and care during Brain Injury Awareness Month. If you suspect you or someone you know has suffered a TBI, don’t wait to seek medical attention.
Dial 911 immediately if your medical problem appears to be life-threatening. For non-life-threatening TBIs, visit a Nao Medical near you for advanced concussion diagnosis and treatment services. Remember, early intervention can make all the difference in your recovery.