Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious concern that can have life-long effects. There are three classifications of traumatic brain injury – mild, moderate, and severe. Doctors diagnose the severity of a TBI based upon factors like whether the injury led to unconsciousness, how long the unconsciousness lasted (if it occurred), and how severe the related symptoms were.
Most TBIs are considered mild because most don’t lead to immediate, severe symptoms. But even mild TBIs can have serious and life-long effects. With any TBI, there is the potential for brain injury that can cause unconsciousness, memory loss (before or after the event), confusion, recall problems, difficulty learning new information, trouble speaking, balance and coordination problems, and hearing or vision problems. Experts also say that certain types of TBIs increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Because of the seriousness of traumatic brain injury – and because it cannot be cured – it’s important to take TBI prevention seriously. This is especially important if you have already had one concussion or TBI.
TBI prevention tips
Falls are the number one cause of traumatic brain injury – especially in older adults. Taking steps to prevent falls is a good strategy for preventing TBI. Here are some things you can do to prevent falls.
- Always use railings in stairwells when taking the stairs.
- Keep your home and yard adequately lit, especially around stairs.
- Put bars on windows to prevent children from falling out.
- Keep walkways free from objects or obstacles.
- Make sure chairs and stools are sturdy and do not lean back on chairs or stools unless they are made to recline.
- Remove hazards in your home that may increase the risk of tripping or falling, such as unsecured rugs, electrical cords, and toys. Use safety gates to keep people from falling down the stairs.
Preventing sports-related TBI
Participating in most sports puts you at risk for traumatic brain injury. Even with proper equipment, there are still risks. But there are some things you can do to decrease your risk of head injury during sports.
- Buy helmets and headgear that are approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).Choose helmets and head protection that are for the specific sport you play. Do not use helmets made for one sport when playing another.
- Make sure your helmet and head gear fit properly. Have it fit by a professional.
- Never play without your helmet or headgear.
- If you fall and hit your head while using a helmet or other headgear, replace the equipment. Most helmets are only made to sustain one hit. Don’t buy second-hand helmets for this reason.
- Always wear a helmet when skateboarding, inline skating, or riding a scooter.
- Always wear protective head gear when participating in the following activities:
- Baseball and softball (when batting or catching)
- Horseback riding
- When driving or riding recreational vehicles like four wheelers or snowmobiles
- Some experts also recommend head gear for the following activities – especially if you have a history of head injury:
- Motor sports
- Bull riding
- Martial arts
- Pole vaulting
General TBI prevention tips
You don’t have to be an athlete to be at risk for head injury. There are other prevention methods most of us don’t think about. For example, to help prevent TBI, you should:
- Always wear a seatbelt in a motor vehicle, regardless of which seat you’re in.
- Don’t drive if you’re tired or have any health problems that might affect your vision or ability to drive, such as dizziness or vertigo.
- Use the appropriate car seat or booster seat; check your state’s guidelines for ages, heights, and weights; also consider having your car seats installed by a professional – many fire stations and hospitals offer this service without a fee.
- Always supervise young children; keep them away from playgrounds with hard ground surfaces.
- Follow the rules at pools, water parks, and beaches.
- Never dive in water that is less than 12 feet deep, and do not dive into above-ground pools or at beaches.
- Do not wear clothing or head gear that interferes with your vision.
- If you’re sick or very tired, do not participate in sports.
- Avoid uneven surfaces when riding your bike, skateboarding, or in-line skating.
- If playing baseball or softball, do not slide head first into a base.
- Never drive or ride a bike or motorized vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol – even some prescriptions. Do not ride in a vehicle if the driver is under the influence.
- Keep firearms unloaded and locked in a safe or cabinet. Store ammunition separately and securely.
Preventing TBI at work
If you work in an industry where you’re at risk of falling or sustaining a head injury, make sure you take proper precautions. For example:
- If you work on a construction site or in a factory, always wear a hard hat and other protective equipment
- If you work involves being in high places, follow your company’s guidelines for head protection.
- Buckle your seatbelt if you drive for a living or ride in or drive any heavy machinery.
- Take precautions to avoid slips and falls, such as keeping walkways clear of obstructions and cleaning and drying areas of the floor that get wet or slippery.
- In general, follow all workplace and OSHA guidelines for fall prevention and head protection.
If you have had a head injury, Beaumont neurologists can help. Our neurology department is staffed with neurologists and traumatic brain injury experts who can perform tests, provide a concussion or TBI diagnosis, and suggest prevention tips and treatment options.
Call 800-633-7377 today to make an appointment with a neurologist at Beaumont.