How Do You Prevent Traumatic Brain Injury?
The most common causes of traumatic brain injury (TBI) are automobile accidents, sports related injuries, combat injuries, falls, and assaults. While it just is not possible to guard yourself against every form of TBI, there are steps you can take to protect your brain. Here’s a look at preventing TBI in general populations, older adults, and children.
General Prevention Tips
Unfortunately, car accidents are named aptly — no one means to crash, but it happens. The laws of traffic only go so far, but you can take precautions to keep yourself safe in the event of a car wreck. Choose cars that have airbags and keep them activated. While airbags themselves can cause damage (like a broken nose) that injury is often much less severe than banging your head on the windshield. It is important to note that it is not appropriate for small children to sit in a seat with an activated airbag.
Additionally, always keep your seatbelt fastened. This will keep your body in the car, minimizing the chances of being thrown from the vehicle, which usually results in much more serious head trauma. Avoid driving under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription medication that may impair judgement or slow reflexes. Never text while driving, and pay attention to your surroundings.
Helmets can go a long way towards protecting your head from TBI as well. Always wear one while riding a motorcycle or bicycle, as well as when using skateboards, snowmobiles, ATVs, or any other recreational vehicle. Wear head protection while participating in sports and hobbies that are more likely to result in TBI, such as: horseback riding, football, baseball, and skating.
Protecting the Elderly
Falls accounts for many TBIs, not to mention other serious injuries. The bathroom, stairs, and dark areas can be particularly dangerous. Make sure to install handrails in bathroom areas. Make use of nonslip mats in showers, but avoid rugs that are likely to slip or cause tripping. Keep clutter out of the way, particularly on stairways. Bright lighting can make it easier for older residents to see where they are going and what obstacles may be coming. By the same token, periodic eye exams can also help manage falls. Getting plenty of exercise keeps the body in better shape, allowing older adults to recover more quickly or prevent falls in the first place.
While children’s brains are more plastic and thus usually recover more easily from TBI, this does not mean they shouldn’t be protected. A serious brain injury for infants and toddlers is shaken baby syndrome, a type of diffuse axonal injury; it can lead to permanent disability and brain damage. Hospitals often show preventative videos teaching new parents how to manage a crying baby.
Never leave an infant with someone you don’t trust. Other things that can help avoid TBI in young children include the use of safety gates to cut their access to things they may not be able to navigate safely alone, like stairways. Using nonslip mats may also be wise. Keep window guards installed, and do not let children play on balconies, fire escapes, or playground equipment unattended.