The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1.7 million people—mostly children and senior citizens—sustain traumatic brain injuries each year. Seventy-five percent of these are mild injuries like concussions, which occur when the soft tissue of the brain moves within the skull becoming bruised or swollen. The damage sustained from even a mild concussion can affect the way a victim’s brain functions. Data also suggests that traumatic brain injury contributes to nearly one-third of injury-related deaths in the United States. Here are some ways you can protect yourself and those you love from concussions and other head injuries.
Use Proper Equipment
For any sport or activity, invest in the proper equipment—especially helmets. In activities like motorcycle riding, tackle football, and horseback riding, proper protection for the participant’s head can be the difference between walking away from an accident and sustaining a life-altering brain injury. Helmets should be activity-specific, fitted properly, and maintained well. Once a helmet sustains a serious impact, it needs to be replaced. In sports where helmets are not permitted, such as basketball or volleyball, new shock-absorbing concussion-prevention headbands can be worn instead.
Practice Good Sportsmanship
Follow the rules of any activity or sport, and always practice good sportsmanship. Hitting another player in the head on purpose or pushing him to the ground after the whistle blows can cause serious brain injuries. Pay special attention to regulations like the high-stick rule in hockey, which are designed to keep players safe.
Install Impact-Absorbing Surfaces
Anywhere children play or adults exercise should be covered with a soft surface to lessen the impact of falls. Mulch, sand, or recycled rubber beneath a jungle gym provides a softer landing when maintained to the proper depth. Rubberized flooring can be installed in a home gym or a garage, and protective coverings can be slipped over bathtub faucets and fixtures.
Wear a Seatbelt
Adults should be protected by seatbelts every time they ride in the car, and children require proper car seats or booster seats. Whether it’s in an automobile, a go-cart, or a baby stroller, a securely fastened safety belt can help prevent head injuries in the event of an accident.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists falls as the number one cause of traumatic brain injuries, saying they account for 35.2 percent of cases. Prevent falls in the home wherever possible by securing loose rugs and electrical cords, installing handrails and non-slip mats, picking up toys, and investing in window guards that prevent children from toppling out of windows.
Prevent More Serious Injury
Concussions generally heal with time and rest, but resuming activities that could injure the brain too soon can have fatal consequences. The second-impact syndrome occurs when a concussed person sustains another concussion before the first one has completely healed. This can result in death or permanent disability. To reduce this risk, anyone who’s suffered a concussion should take plenty of time to rest afterward and seek a doctor’s approval before returning to sports or other high-impact activities.
Protecting yourself with appropriate headgear, reducing the risk of falls, buckling seatbelts—there are myriad ways to prevent concussions and other serious brain injuries on a daily basis. Keeping these precautions in mind means you and your family can enjoy the activities you love knowing you’ve taken every possible measure to protect yourselves from the potentially serious consequences of traumatic brain injuries.