March is Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month

WVU trauma doc encourages you to protect your brain

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Wrap your head around this: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nearly 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries (TBI) occur either as an isolated injury or in addition to other injuries each year. And, TBI is a contributing factor to a third of all injury-related deaths in the United States.

Brain injuries affect people of all ages and can result from a fall, car crash, sports-related accident, or other activity. These injuries can range from a concussion to a coma.

“People may think that concussions aren’t injuries, but that’s just not true. When an individual sustains a blow to the head, he or she should be examined by a healthcare professional as soon as possible to rule out bleeding or swelling of the brain, which are signs of very serious injury and may require surgery,” Alison Wilson, M.D., director of the Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center at Ruby Memorial Hospital said.

To help you keep your head in the game, the staff of the Trauma Center wants you to know the signs and symptoms of TBI. Symptoms of TBI fall into four categories:
  • Thinking/remembering – difficulty thinking clearly, feeling slowed down, difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering new information
  • Physical – headache, fuzzy or blurred vision, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to noise or light, balance problems, feeling tired or having no energy
  • Emotional/mood – irritability, sadness, more emotional, nervousness or anxiety
  • Sleep – Sleeping more than usual, sleeping less than usual, trouble falling asleep
There are easy steps that people of all ages can take to prevent brain injuries.

One key to brain injury prevention is for adults and children to wear proper safety equipment, like a helmet, when riding a bike or ATV or playing sports, such as football, baseball, or hockey.

“The importance of a helmet is often underappreciated,” Dr. Wilson said. “Helmets can decrease the risk of injury by more than 50 percent.”

Older adults should do what they can to prevent falls. These steps include exercising regularly to improve balance; asking a doctor or pharmacist about medicines that can cause dizziness or drowsiness; having regular vision checks; and making their homes safer by improving lighting and by adding railings or grab bars on both sides of staircases, outside the tub or shower, and near the toilet.

“In the last year, 803 seniors required hospitalization at the Trauma Center due to brain injury after a fall,” Wilson said. “One of our community education programs, SLIP (Senior Lifestyle and Injury Prevention), is conducted by our staff in area seniors’ centers. This program is specifically aimed at reducing falls in the community-dwelling senior.”

For those who do sustain a brain injury, rest is the best medicine.

“We can’t tell you that you need to rest for a certain amount of days, and you’ll feel better. That’s not how it works. When it comes to brain injuries, everyone is different. The key is to take it slow and not push yourself,” Wilson said. “We all know the saying ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ That couldn’t be more true for brain injuries. It is critical that you do not return to play if you still have any symptoms. We each only get one brain, so we’ve got to do everything we can to protect it.”

For more information on the Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center, see http://wvuhealthcare.com/wvuh/Hospitals-Clinics/Jon-Michael-Moore-Trauma-Center/JMMTC.


For more information:
Angela Jones-Knopf, News Service Coordinator, 304-293-7087
ajk: 02-25-14

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