Brain injury prevention can save you or a loved one from a traumatic injury. By taking sensible protections against accidents – the top cause of acquired brain injury – you can preserve that most precious organ of all: the brain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 1.7 million people each year sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Males are far more likely to sustain an injury than females, and injuries are most likely to occur in people between the ages of 15 and 19, as well as those who are 65 and older.
Accidents and Brain Injury
In young people, accidents are the largest cause of brain injury. Car accidents are a common cause of brain trauma and your head doesn’t need to hit the windshield for damage to occur. The force of impact can whip the head back, slamming your brain against your skull. Two things can significantly reduce your risk of brain injury in a car:
- Buckle up. Seatbelts minimize injuries by limiting head movement in an accident.
- Never drink and drive and do not agree to get in a car with someone who has been drinking or is under the influence from any substance.
Sports are fun; they’re also potentially dangerous to the brain. Whether climbing a tree or a mountain, hopping on a skateboard, riding a bike or playing football, think of your skull as an egg. The number one way to reduce your risk of brain injury is to wear a helmet.
Today’s lighter weight technologies make helmets more comfortable and labs have found that inexpensive helmets work as well as more costly ones. Helmets vary by sport and a good fit is key. Learn more about helmets and read about how to get the best fit.
Football induced concussions are a subject of new awareness and ongoing study as scientists seek ways to measure potential damage that is not visible in brain scans. Concussions are a form of mild traumatic brain injury and repeated concussions may be dangerous long term. The data is still coming in.
Young people are also vulnerable to falls, just like the elderly. Slipping on ice, falling from a ladder, even just stepping wrong can lead to a fall. If you’re surprised and not able to break your fall with your heads, your unprotected head can make contact with a hard surface like cement and cause a devastating injury.
With falls, you’re typically not wearing head protection. The bigger the distance to the ground, the worse the fall can be. The best way to defend against falls from heights is to remain alert when you’re some distance above ground – even standing on a balcony. Take care when moving across uneven terrain.
After a fall, signs like pupil dilation, speech disturbance, confusion, memory loss, vomiting, headache or seizure should be taken seriously and evaluated by a medical professional quickly.
- Wear a seatbelt.
- Wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, skateboard, motorcycle, snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle.
- Wear appropriate head protection when you bat or run bases, ski, skate, ride a horse, or play a contact sport.
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Be aware of surroundings and take care to prevent falls from heights.
Parents: How to avoid head injuries in small children
Parents of young kids should be proactive about brain protection by making sure their children’s home environment is as safe as possible. Kids love to jump, climb and run – all opportunities to keep watch over them!
- Install safety gates at the top of stairs.
- Install child-height handrails on staircases.
- Keep stairs clear of clutter.
- Install window guards to prevent falls.
- Place a nonslip mat in the bathroom or tub.
- Use playgrounds that have shock-absorbing materials on the ground.
- Don’t let children play on fire escapes or balconies.
Brain injury prevention for seniors: Avoiding falls
When people get older, their agility decreases. Falls can be more damaging than in younger people because bones are more likely to break. From decreased balance to vision problems, older people are at higher risk of falling. These precautions can help lower the risk:
- Install handrails in bathrooms.
- Place a nonslip mat in the bathroom or tub.
- Install handrails on both sides of staircases.
- Remove area rugs.
- Keep stairs and floors clear of clutter.
- Stay up-to-date with vision checkups.
- Exercise regularly, and stretch to stay limber.
Strokes and Acquired Brain Injury
Medical causes of acquired brain injury include cerebrovascular accidents (CVA), more commonly called stroke. Strokes account for a significant number of acquired brain injuries each year. The CDC reports that roughly 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke every year. It’s not just older people. Younger people in their twenties, thirties are forties experience strokes.
Stroke prevention efforts focus on lifestyle changes such as not smoking, limiting alcohol, maintaining blood pressure, and controlling diabetes and cholesterol levels through diet and exercise.