Traumatic Brain Injuries or TBI’s
Sorry, I have not written anything in a few, but I am generally busier than I wish I were. That said, let’s talk about a different kind of brain issue than my norm. Let’s discuss “Traumatic Brain Injury” or “TBIs.”
TBIs are in the new frequently these days because of the frequency of incidents with our military men and women encountering IEDs and other concussive type mechanisms of injury. However, there are many numerous causes of TBIs that we here in in the US could encounter. In Texas, more than 144,000 people sustain a traumatic brain injury each year, and an estimated 440,000 Texans have a disability related to a traumatic brain injury.
In the US, the number of people who are diagnosed with a brain injury each year is more than the number of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, prostate cancer, lung cancer, and ALS….combined.
So why is it important to address this issue?
Well, NOT protecting our brains can leave us with lifelong consequences. While some effects can be overcome, some are not. Everything we are, think, know, remember, believe, do, see, hear, taste, etc.… it’s all controlled or stored by our brain. The human brain is not designed to withstand impacts so we need to do what we can to try to avoid injuring it. We could change our very personality by not doing so.
So what are the number one cause of TBIs? Falls. Falls account for 40% of TBIs. Some other reasons are:
- blast injury
- struck by or against something
- motor vehicle crash
- abusive head trauma
- shaken baby syndrome
- sports injuries
Who is principally at risk?
- Children ages 0-4 and Adolescents ages 16-19: most likely to have TBI-related ED visit or hospitalization. (This is due to falls or general risk taking.)
- Older adults age 75+: have highest rates of TBI-related hospitalizations and deaths among all age groups. (This is due to falls because of declining mental and physical attributes.)
- Domestic Violence Survivors: Studies estimate the prevalence of TBI in domestic violence survivors is over 35%.
- Athletes: Over 1.6 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur in the U.S. each year.
Moreover, how do we avoid a TBI? Follow these tips to reduce the risk of brain injury:
- Seat belts and airbags. Always wear a seat belt in a motor vehicle. A small child should always sit in the back seat of a car and be secured in child safety seats or booster seats that are appropriate for his or her size and weight.
- Alcohol and drug use. Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications that can impair the ability to drive.
- Wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, skateboard, motorcycle, snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle. Also wear appropriate head protection when playing baseball or contact sports, skiing, skating, snowboarding, or riding a horse.
- Preventing falls
The following tips can help older adults avoid falls around the house:
- Install handrails in bathrooms
- Put a nonslip mat in the bathtub or shower
- Remove area rugs
- Install handrails on both sides of staircases
- Improve lighting in the home
- Keep stairs and floors clear of clutter
- Get regular vision checkups
- Get regular exercise
- Preventing head injuries in children
The following tips can help children avoid head injuries:
- Install safety gates at the top of a stairway
- Keep stairs clear of clutter
- Install window guards to prevent falls
- Put a nonslip mat in the bathtub or shower
- Use playgrounds that have shock-absorbing materials on the ground
- Make sure area rugs are secure
- Don’t let children play on fire escapes or balconies
However, say something happens, and someone you know ends up with a possible head injury. Here’s what to look for:
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Loss of consciousness
- Severe headache
- Nausea or vomiting
- Blood or clear fluid draining from nose or ears
- Weakness, numbness, or tingling in limbs
- Trouble walking
- Slurred speech or vision issues
Symptoms may not appear until days, weeks, or even months after the injury.
Continue to monitor for signs and symptoms even if you do not observe any immediately. See a doctor if you notice any of these changes after the injury.
- Concentration and memory problems
- Changes in Work/school performance
- Delayed thinking and understanding
- Changes in personality and behavior
- Poor balance and coordination
- Sleep disturbances or fatigue
- Ongoing headaches or neck pain
- Sensitivity to light and noise
And finally, consider downloading a wallet card at the link below if you have a brain injury that has left you with permanent symptoms that may complicate your normal life, including an interaction with a police officer. Some symptoms, because of a lack of knowledge about your history, might appear to indicate intoxication or alcohol or another substance. Having a wallet card with easy to understand information may help mitigate a situation.
I hope this information helps. Head injuries are not something we “rub some dirt on and walk off.” It is something to take them all seriously until you are confident it not.
-Officer C. Morgan #622
Mental Health Peace Officer
North Richland Hills Police Department
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