A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a condition caused by a hard blow or jolt to the head, or by a penetrating head injury. Concussions are a type of TBI that many people are familiar with. TBIs can cause temporary or permanent changes in how the brain functions, including impaired thinking, memory loss, changes in sensations like vision and hearing, and changes in emotions or personality.
TBIs are serious injuries with potentially lifelong effects. Consequently, it’s important to know how to prevent head injuries.
How Do Brain Injuries Happen?
People of all ages can be affected by head injuries. It’s estimated that 283,00 children in the U.S. require emergency room care for head injuries every year, with nearly half of those injuries resulting from contact sports. Adults 75 years of age and older have the highest rate of TBIs and related hospitalizations and deaths.
The most common cause of head injuries is falling. Other causes of TBIs include:
- Sports injuries
- Car accidents
- Physical violence
- Other blows to the head
Greater attention to head injury safety can help reduce the number of TBIs and the toll they take on individuals and families.
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Tips to Prevent Head Injuries
The good news about TBIs is that they can be prevented in many instances. The key is learning how to prevent head injuries by understanding head injury safety. Follow these tips to reduce the risk of a head injury:
- NEVER shake a baby. TBIs can occur even in the absence of a blow to the head. Shaking a baby can jar their brain and cause a brain injury that affects them for the rest of their life. Approximately 1,300 cases of “shaken baby syndrome” occur every year, with 80% of those cases resulting in lifelong disabilities.
- Wear a helmet in higher-risk activities. Many head injuries occur in contact sports like football, hockey, and wrestling, and as a result of other activities like biking, skateboarding, skiing and snowboarding, skating, and horseback riding. You should always protect yourself and set a good example for others by wearing a helmet when enjoying these activities.
- Inspect helmets regularly. A damaged helmet won’t provide the level of protection that it should. Examine your helmet frequently and replace it if you notice signs of damage or excessive wear.
- Prevent impact injuries in your home. Young children can be injured when struck by furniture that falls on them. Anchor dressers, TVs, and other items to the wall to prevent tipping.
- Wear your seatbelt and use approved car/booster seats in vehicles. There’s no such thing as a “quick trip” that doesn’t require a seatbelt or car seat. Belt yourself and your children every time you’re in a moving vehicle.
- Fall-proof the homes of older adults. Removing or securing rugs that pose a tripping hazard, installing handrails in bathrooms, putting non-slip material in tubs and showers, and other actions focused on helping older adults get around safely in their homes can help minimize their fall risk.
- Ensure that kids play and swim safely. Avoid playgrounds that don’t have impact-absorbing surfaces. Sand, woodchips, mulch, and similar materials are much safer than concrete or hard-packed dirt/grass. Also, instruct children that they should never dive into water that’s less than 10 feet deep and should only dive into areas of a pool where there are no other children, large toys, etc.
Knowing how to prevent concussions and other TBIs can protect you and the people in your life.
Seek Medical Care at Baptist Health for Head Injuries
Despite your best efforts at preventing them, head injuries can still occur. That means it’s important to know how to perform a basic head injury assessment and how to deal with a head injury if one’s suspected.
Some of the signs of a concussion are:
- Loss of consciousness
- A stunned or dazed appearance
- Trouble recalling events before or after the injury
- Awkward movements
- Trouble answering questions
- Mood or personality changes
- The sensation of pressure in the head or headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sensitivity to noise or light
- Balance problems
- Double vision or blurry vision
Knowing what to do after hitting your head or witnessing someone else being injured — including getting prompt medical care — can help prevent more serious consequences. That includes being able to share (or have someone share for you if you’re injured) information like how the injury occurred, how long the person was unconscious if they lost consciousness, what symptoms have been exhibited, and any details on the location and force of the injury.
Avoiding head injuries when possible and getting medical attention right away are the keys to minimizing the risk of serious consequences.
If there’s any doubt at all about whether you or someone you’re with has suffered a concussion or other TBI, seek medical attention right away. Find a Baptist Health Urgent Care or Emergency Room near you, or call 911 if life threatening injuries are sustained.
Next Steps and Useful Resources: