Are there precautions I can take to help decrease my chances of brain injury?

By. Dr. Julian Velez
DHR Health Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when there is a blow or jolt to the head due to rapid acceleration/deceleration or direct impact. The Center for Disease Control estimates that more than 50,000 people die from TBI in the United States each year. The overall mortality varies with the severity of the brain injury from mild to moderate to severe. There can also be lifelong consequences after a brain injury which can affect the physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral well-being. Therefore, what are some precautions you can take to help decrease the chances of a brain injury?

Falls are the leading cause of TBI amongst all age groups, followed by motor vehicle collisions, being struck by or against an object, and assaults.

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths and emergency department visits amongst those who are 65 years and older. Primary prevention for these cases includes improving home safety such as:

  • Removing loose carpets and items that may cause tripping
  • Improved lighting
  • Installing grab bars and nonslip surfaces in bathrooms
  • Having accessible ways to call for help.

Automobile accidents are the most common cause of TBI-related fatalities in the United States. Although you cannot always prevent an automobile accident, you can use the following secondary prevention to help reduce your risk of TBI:

  • Automobile seat belts
  • Airbags in automobiles
  • Helmet use for cyclists

Sport-related traumatic brain injury most commonly presents with concussions or mild TBI. In the U.S, most cases occur in American football, followed by wrestling and girls’ soccer. In general, all athletes should be required to undergo a pre-participation physical examination. In addition, if an athlete exhibits any of the features of concussion, they

should immediately be removed from play, evaluated using standard emergency care principles, and monitored for deterioration.

Common physical, mental, and emotional signs of TBI following a concussion may include:

  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Delayed response to questions
  • Lack of coordination
  • Sleepiness or fatigue

With some high schools beginning spring football soon, the following prevention is recommended:

  • Wear properly fitted equipment at all times (helmets & mouth guards)
  • Incorporate neck-strengthening exercises into practice
  • Prohibit butt blocking
  • Prohibit face tackling
  • Instruct the athlete in the proper techniques in which the helmet and facemask do not purposely receive the brunt of the initial impact
  • Ball carriers should also be taught not to lower their heads when making contact with the tackler

It is very important that an athlete who is diagnosed with a concussion not be allowed to return to play on the day of the injury.

If you have questions regarding traumatic brain injury and would like to speak to one of our experts, please call DHR Health Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at (956) 362-6680.