Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI is a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Annually, 2.4 million Americans sustain a brain injury; at least 230,000 are admitted to hospitals with TBI and approximately 5.3 million are living with a long-term or life-long disability as the result of a brain injury. The estimated annual cost to treat these injuries is approximately $56.3 billion dollars reports the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA)(www.biausa.org).
TBIs occur every 23 seconds. Children under 19 and adults over 35 are at highest risk for TBIs. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of three adults, age 65 and older, falls each year resulting in serious injuries as hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries that can lead to death. (In 2010, falls were the third leading cause of injury related death and hospitalizations in Virginia.) Out of the number of TBIs that occur each year, approximately 75% are concussions or other mild forms of TBI -- an estimated 173,285 sports and recreation-related TBIs including concussions are treated annually in U.S. emergency departments.
TBIs can cause a wide range of functional changes that affect:
· Thinking (memory and reasoning)
· Sensation (touch, taste, and smell)
· Language (communication, expression, and understanding)
· Emotion (depression, anxiety, personality changes, aggression, acting out, and social inappropriateness)
TBIs can cause epilepsy increasing one’s chances of acquiring conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease -- conditions often associated with aging.
To keep your family safe from brain injuries:
· Always wear a seat belt when you drive or ride in a motor vehicle
· Always buckle your child in a child safety seat, booster seat or seat belt in the car
· Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
· Always wear a helmet when playing sports or enjoying outdoor activities:
- Riding a bike, motorcycle, snowmobile, or all-terrain vehicle
- Playing contact sports
- Using inline skates or riding a skateboard
- Batting and running bases in baseball or softball
- Riding a horse, skiing or snowboarding
· Check the surface of your child's playground to make sure it is made of shock-absorbing material such as hardwood, mulch, and sand
· Keep firearms unloaded and stored in a locked cabinet or safe (store bullets in a separate location)
To avoid falls in the home:
· Use a step stool with a grab bar to reach objects on high shelves
· Install handrails on stairways
· Install window guards on open windows to keep young children from falling out
· Use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs when young children are present
· Remove small area rugs and loose electrical cords; they are tripping hazards
· Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors
· Place grab bars next to the toilet and in the tub or shower
Additional safety tips you can follow to prevent falling and reduce the risk of brain injuries are:
· Maintain a regular exercise program to improve your strength, balance and coordination
· Visit an eye doctor regularly to have your vision checked
Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue would like to remind residents that as first responders, we frequently care for individuals with head injuries. Although accidents are unpredictable, the resulting injuries are often preventable. You can reduce the tragic consequences of becoming a victim of TBI by taking simple precautions to protect you and your family against brain injuries.