Preventing Traumatic Brain Injury
TBI affects millions of Americans every year, permanently disrupting the lives of patients and their families. We’re all at risk in the course of our everyday routines, from driving, to walking down the stairs, to playing recreational sports. Since TBI cannot be cured it’s important for us to bear in mind the prudent steps we can take to minimize risk and prevent these injuries from happening in the first place. Most important is to use common sense and take basic safety precautions when engaged in the activities below.
Automobile accidents account for the largest number of traumatic brain injuries sustained every year.
- Always wear a seat belt in a motor vehicle in the front and back seats
- Always use an approved safety seat or a booster for children in cars
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Never let friends or family members drive under the influence
Recreational sports and activities are the next most common cause of TBI. Young people are particularly at risk while playing contact sports or high-velocity outdoor activities. Click here for more information about appropriate types of safety helmets. (https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/helmet-safety-keep-lid-it)
- Always wear a helmet when playing any contact sport
- Always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, a scooter or skateboarding
- Always wear a helmet when horseback riding and mountain bike riding
- Always wear a helmet while skiing, snowboarding or skating
- Always wear a helmet when riding in a snowmobile, ATV or other open recreational vehicle
Young children and seniors are also at risk of sustaining brain injury from simply falling down when not properly attended.
For Young Children
Falls at home or on the playground are the most common cause of TBI among children under the age of nine. A little bit of common sense and proper supervision can go a long way in helping to prevent serious injury!
- Provide supervision at all times for young children around any fall hazard, whether navigating the stairs or on the jungle gym at the playground.
- Install safety devices in the home, including window guards and gates at the bottom and top of all staircases.
- Make sure playground equipment is safe and well maintained. For children 5 and under it’s a good idea to seek out playground areas that have soft landing surfaces, such as shredded rubber padding, pea gravel, sand or mulch.
Injuries related to falling are also the leading cause of injury related death and hospitalization among adults 65 and older. In fact, in New York State it has been estimated that about two-thirds of all hospitalizations and a third of all emergency room visits for adults over the age of 65 are the result of falls that happen at home. This is another instance where common sense precautions can go a long way to reduce the chance of injury.
- Remove items from stairs and other common walkways that you can easily trip over, such as throw rugs, papers, books, clothes, and shoes. Secure rugs in place with doublesided tape to avoid slipping.
- Be aware of pets and pet-related toys that can turn into hazards underfoot.
- Keep items you use most often in places easy to reach without a step stool.
- Install grab bars next to your toilet and in the tub or shower. Use nonslip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors.
- Improve the lighting in your home. As you get older, you need brighter lights to see well. Hang lightweight curtains or shades to reduce glare.
- Put handrails and lights in all staircases.
- Wear shoes inside and outside the house. Avoid going barefoot or wearing slippers.
- Ask your health care provider to review all your medications, including over-the-counter medicines. As you get older, the way medicines work in your body can change. Some medicines, or combinations of medicines, can make you sleepy or dizzy and can cause you to fall.
- Get your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. You may be wearing the wrong glasses or have a condition such as glaucoma or cataracts that limits your vision. Poor vision can increase your risk of falling.
- Try to start a regular exercise program. Physical activity makes you stronger and helps you feel better. Exercises that improve strength, balance and coordination (like Tai Chi) are the most helpful. Ask your doctor or health care provider about the best type of exercise program for you.