Head injuries are often a source of long-term disabilities that can change the direction of a person’s life. While therapists have a range of approaches to assist children and adults in recovering from head injuries, being proactive and protecting yourself is the most effective way to prevent these difficult injuries to the organ that controls so many aspects of who you are and how you function.
To help us mark Brain Injury Awareness Month, Laura Hinen, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, speech-language pathologist, Parkview Huntington Hospital Rehab and Wellness Center, offers some insights to help you protect yourself and your loved ones from potentially debilitating brain injuries.
An injury to the brain can occur from a blow or jolt to the head or body, or if an object penetrates the brain. The most common causes are:
- Falls. Falls from a bed or chair are the most common cause of brain injury for children, while falls in the bathroom are the most common causes for older adults.
- Vehicle-related collisions. Accidents involving cars, motorcycles, bicycles, scooters and even pedestrians can result in brain injuries.
- Violence. Domestic abuse, assault and child abuse – especially Shaken Baby Syndrome – are, sadly, significant causes of brain injuries that can alter a child’s life permanently.
- Sports activities. This cause is particularly common in youth due to the popularity of high-impact and extreme sports.
- Explosive blasts/combat injuries. This is a common cause of brain injury for active military personnel.
The effects of brain injury.
Injuries to the brain can cause various levels of impairment, from mild to severe. Individuals can have difficulty with attention, memory, speech, vertigo, behavior, balance and mood/emotions. An individual can be hyper-sensitive to lights/sound or experience an increase in frequency or intensity of headaches.
Preventing brain injury.
Here are some of the steps you can take to prevent or reduce the risk of head injuries:
- Wear your seat belts/use car seats. Always wear seat belts and ensure that each child is secured in the appropriate safety/booster seat for his or her size, weight and age.
- Don’t drive impaired. Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Always be aware of the side effects of any prescribed medication you are taking.
- Wear a helmet. Wear approved safety helmets when riding motorcycles, scooters, bicycles and snowmobiles. Helmets are also essential protective equipment for sports such as baseball, football, skiing and horseback riding.
- Avoid falls:
◦ Never leave a child unattended in a high chair, bed or changing table.
◦ Use safety devices such as gates near stairs and window guards.
◦ Make sure that playgrounds have shock-absorbing material on the ground.
◦ For older adults, install safety features like grab bars and non-slip mats in the
bathtub and shower.
◦ Remove area rugs, clear away any clutter in walkways, and improve lighting in the
Always see a primary care provider if you or a loved one experiences a head or body trauma that concerns you or causes behavioral changes. Seek emergency medical care if there is significant change in speech, memory or alertness, even if the person has not lost consciousness.