Careers with TBI Risks

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Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can devastate people’s lives. One simple blow to the head can send any person to a lifetime of difficulty. Returning to work after a TBI can be challenging, and even impossible for some TBI patients with former careers.

 

Some jobs are friendlier to your brain—physically speaking—than others. If you’re taking TBI into account when deciding on your career, consider how well or how poorly these careers will affect your brain.  

Office Worker Careers

Office workers rarely suffer blows to the head. Office work may be boring, but it will probably not leave you with a cognitive disability. Office workers do many things, and almost none of those things will leave you with a TBI.

 

  • Pros: When you work in an office, you’ll be safe. White collar workers make their living using their brains, and upper management understand that endanger those precious resources would put the entire business at risk. If you’re interested in avoiding a TBI, office work is for you.
  • Cons: Office work can be dull. You’ll sit behind a computer screen most of the day and be immersed in vexing politics. Your brain may be safe, but it might not get the top notch exercise it desires.

 

Careers in Law Enforcement

Law enforcement workers are regularly put into dangerous situations. Policemen and policewomen frequently need to engage in physical conflict, drive at high speeds, and put themselves in the front lines against the forces that bring ugliness into our lives. This career may be noble, but it is not a great choice for the TBI-concerned worker

 

  • Pros: Police officers work hard to improve their world. Because of the dedication they often show to their mission, police officers display satisfaction with their lives and careers. The work is exciting, dynamic, and will provide long lasting opportunities for development.
  • Cons: Law enforcement officers deal with physical violence. It’s part of the job. As a police officer, you’ll be facing some of the most frequent causes of TBI: blows to the head, high speed driving, and running around in dangerous situations.

 

Careers in Retail

Cashiers, sales clerks, and other retail professionals do not get hit in the head too much. Sellings things to people is good, reliable work, and by doing so you won’t be putting yourself at risk of TBI. Retail is good long term work only for some people. If you’re interested in talking to new people every day and keeping your brain comfortable, go for it. But if you’re interested in risks and excitement, look elsewhere.

  • Pros: You’ll be safe. Retail workers spend most of their time in comfortable places talking to people. Customers can be incredibly rude, sure, but they rarely assault workers. Choose retail if you think you will like walking around stores and helping people find things.
  • Cons: While you’re unlikely to face TBI risks, you could get bored. Retail workers are frequently insulted by members of the public who do not view them as fully human; any seasoned retailer will have countless stories of being bullied and abused by people they don’t even know. You’ll be safe from TBI, but many other forms of psychological violence make provide their own forms of damage.  

At-Risk Groups for Traumatic Brain Injury

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major topic in public health. As an under-discussed but extremely serious condition, TBI awareness needs to be spread among the general population. And even more than the general population, several specific groups need to understand that their situations call for special attention to TBI. If you’re a member of one of these groups, be aware, educate yourself, and stay safe to avoid lasting and brutalizing damage to your body’s central organ.

Athletes and Risks for Brain Injury

Athletes are among the population most at risk for a TBI. Players of heavy hitting sports such as football and boxing are, of course, at the deepest risk. But TBI affects more athletes than just linebackers and welterweight champions. Any athlete can suffer head trauma. In fact, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), cycling is the sport that most commonly associated with brain injury. (The other items in the top five are football, baseball/softball, basketball, water sports (diving, swimming, etc.), and recreational vehicle riding.)

 

If you’re an athlete—of any kind—be careful. Sports enthusiasts suffer TBIs very often. Any small bang to the head can leave you with lasting damage. Even relatively violence-free sports are common sources of injury (see basketball on that list up there?). Fast movements of all sports lead to strong blows to the head. Watch yourself.

Construction Workers and Risks for Brain Injury

Those “hard hat required” signs are there for a good reason. When working construction, hard and heavy object are very likely to come dislodged and knock your head around. Even a small object can severely damage your brain if it falls far and fast enough. Construction workers are vulnerable to pails, planks, wrenches, and countless other objects falling without warning and hitting them in the head.

 

And falling objects aren’t even the most frequent cause of TBIs in construction work. Human falls are. A 2009 study from the medical journal Brain Injury found that simply falling down and hitting a head on the ground was the biggest source of brain injury among construction workers. Construction sites are filled with many tripping hazards, and the fall construction workers take are often longer and harder than the falls people take in most workplaces. If you are a construction worker, be careful on site, wear your hard hat, and walk carefully.

Any Job that Involves Driving

According to the Mayo Clinic, vehicular accidents frequently cause TBIs. Professions in which workers need to drive around regularly—taxi drivers, delivery drivers, postal workers, police, home health aides, etc.—can be potent sources of brain injury danger. Car accidents are, of course, causes of every kind of health problem under the sun, and workers in these jobs are likely already aware of the problems associated with crashes.
If you drive for a living, review your traffic safety skills. Practice defensive driving, watch your surroundings carefully, and wear your seat belt. Even a minor fender bender can give your head a big bump and leave your mind altered forever. Professional drivers can never be careful on the road.

Understanding Brain Injury

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Brain injury or traumatic brain injury (TBI) happens when there is sudden damage of the skull. Brain injury can be categorized in two parts namely: open brain injury and closed brain injury. The former takes place when a part of the brain is damaged by something intrusive, such as a bullet. This can turn fatal within no time at all. On the other hand, closed brain injury is a more common one as it happens when one gets hit by a heavy object, or suffers a severe blow to the skull. This can result in a concussion or contusion. Whatever the nature of this injury may be, it is very important to take immediate action to avoid any unfavorable circumstances. It is difficult to know for sure when a brain injury happens. Each brain injury is unique in its own way and can have various kinds of ramifications. These are some of the most common causes of brain injury:

  • Falling (by accident)
  • Blow from a heavy object
  • Motor vehicle (car) accidents
  • Violent assaults

It is estimated that approximately 2.6 million people annually suffer from some form of brain injury in the US. It is commonly referred to as the silent epidemic, since many of those afflicted suffer in silence. Even more disturbing is the fact that 52,000 people die every year from this type of injury. Consequently, serious measures must be taken, and more people should be made aware of TBI through social awareness initiatives.

Consequences

Brain injuries are also classified in two parts in terms of consequences. There are mild and severe brain injuries. When the disorientation is less than 30 minutes, it is known as mild brain injury. However, the more dangerous is severe brain injury. That is when the disorientation is far more than 30 minutes. A patient goes into a state of confusion. Physically, some parts of the body can stop working altogether, and this type of injury can even result in death. In this case, the effects can be both temporary and permanent. Unfortunately, a head injury can change a person’s life forever both mentally and physically. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to recognize the cause as soon as possible and take appropriate measures.  

Treatment and prevention

We all know that the brain is one of the most complex part of our body. For this reason, it is very difficult to diagnose and treat a head injury correctly. It can suffice to say that the diagnosis of a brain injury is directly proportional to its severity. The best way to increase chances of treatment is to visit the hospital as soon as one notices the obvious symptoms. Prevention is better than cure. It may sound unbelievably cliché, but it is completely applicable, especially with TBI’s. The significance of this fact can never be neglected. Here are some measures you can take to minimize the risk of a head injury:

  • Use seat belts while driving
  • Use appropriate head gear when taking part in a sports event
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol  
  • Avoid dangerous or reckless activities

Do you or someone you know suffer from a TBI? How did it happen? Leave your comments below:

Energy Drinks & TBI

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Between extra curricular activities like sports, an afterschool job, and a backpack full of homework, as a parent of a busy teenager, you may consider yourself to be lucky if you see your teen at all. Like millions of other young people, your teenager may drink one of the many popular energy drinks from time to time to keep going. If you’re bothered by your teen’s consumption of the sugary and highly caffeinated drink, there’s another reason to urge your teenager to stop drinking energy drinks. Recent studies suggest that teens who drink energy drinks may be more likely to have a traumatic brain injury.

Link Between Energy Drinks and TBIs

 

If your teen drinks an energy drink every now and then it doesn’t automatically mean that he or she will suffer a head injury, but according to a recent Canadian study published in PLOS ONE, the chances may be greater. Researchers theorize that young people who drink energy drinks on a regular basis may be bigger risk takers which may result in traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Think of the advertising that surrounds energy drinks. It isn’t targeted to the young people who spend their time studying, but rather those who are into extreme sports or young people who want to be “wild” or the life of a party.

 

Additionally, teens who reported having a TBI in the past year were 7 times more likely to report drinking at least five energy drinks within a week. The data is compared to teens, within the same age group, who did not have a TBI. Even more troubling results from the study reveal that of the 10,272 teens, between 7th and 12th grade, those who had experienced a TBI within a year were more likely to drink energy drinks mixed with alcohol. Not only is that behavior problematic in terms of underage drinking, but the level of caffeine in energy drinks masks alcohol making it harder to determine when to stop drinking alcohol.

Permanent Damage

 

Given the information revealed in the study, there could be a strong argument that alcohol is really the issue when it comes to teens and TBIs, but more research needs to be done. Researchers conclude that energy drinks with a high amount of caffeine and alcohol, both consumed on their own, can have damaging effects on a developing brain. Remember, the brain doesn’t fully develop until mid-20s to early 30s. Any damage that occurs during the development stages can be permanent. Energy drinks and alcohol can have the same effects on the brains as illicit drugs. Not only can it affect a young person’s brain, but also damage overall health and lead to death.

 

What Can You Do?

As a parent, it may be difficult to take control of your teen’s energy drink consumption, particularly if he or she has a busy extra curricular or social life. The best way to encourage healthy habits is by modeling healthy habits. When you have an open and honest discussion with your teen about drug use and other risky behaviors, incorporate energy drink use into the discussion. If your son or daughter plays sports or stays up late doing homework, encourage natural ways of boosting energy through foods, water, or even caffeinated tea or a small cup of coffee. You can’t keep your teen away from the world of energy drinks, but you can help him or her know the potential dangers.

 

Back to School & Preventing Brain Injuries

During spring and summer months, as well as weekends, children are more likely to have head injuries, particularly when they are most active outdoors. As a result, many parents find it hard to keep their children injury-free during summer vacation, but once school starts the incidence of injury continues with school sports and during regular activities throughout the school day.

 

Although tripping, falling, and getting minor bumps and bruises seem to be a natural part of being a kid, injuries to the head must always be taken seriously. The Brain Injury Association of America reports that each year, 62,000 children between the ages of 0-19 sustain brain injuries that require hospitalization. Additionally, over 500,000 are treated in the ER for TBI. While you can’t always prevent injuries from occurring, you can make sure your children are safe at school and during extracurricular activities.

In the Classroom, On the Playground

 

Teachers do their best to closely monitor children in the classroom and in the hallways, but children are notorious for goofing around, not thinking about the potentially dangerous outcome. The playground can be particularly dangerous and a frequent place for injuries, despite the close monitoring from a trained staff member. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. Although you can’t watch every move your child makes during his or her school day, you can remind him or her how to stay safer at school.

 

  • Avoid engaging in horseplay. Pulling on a friend’s shirt during a game of tag or purposefully bumping or tripping a classmate can cause serious injuries.

 

  • Don’t lean back in chairs and keep all four legs of the chair on the floor. If the chair slips, your child could hit his or her head on the floor, causing a brain injury.

 

  • Follow all rules in the classroom, in the lunchroom, in the hallways, and on the playground.

 

Additionally, as a parent, you should recognize the signs of a TBI, in case your child comes home from school seeming a little “off”. If he or she was engaging in unsafe behaviors he or she may be more likely to withhold information about an injury.

After School, On the Field

 

Organized sports are a wonderful way for your child to gain confidence, be healthy, and work as a team player. Unfortunately, sports are also a common way to receive a life-changing head injury. From a bicycle ride with friends after school to leading the school in a cheer while flipping in the air to making a touchdown before being tackled, most types of sports are potentially dangerous and can lead to a TBI. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to be involved in your child’s extra curricular sports. Showing up and cheering your son or daughter on is encouraging, but make sure the sport is as safe as possible.

 

Talk to the coaches about their safety plans or how they treat head injuries. Do they make players stay out of games until they are given a “go ahead” or are they put back in the game right away? Do players wear protective gear all the time or only during games or matches? Is the sport age appropriate for your child or is it too aggressive? Anytime you feel like your child’s safety is in danger, you should speak up; it could prevent a TBI.

Is There A Link Between Brain Injury And Homelessness?

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Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI is the damage, loss, or deterioration of the brain cells which results from the effect of an outside force such as a blow to the head. It is a common occurrence especially among fighters, contact sport athletes, battle veterans, and in recent times it has been postulated as one of the leading causes behind urban homelessness.

Could it be Coincidence?

According to recent research, there is a very easily identifiable link between homelessness and trauma to the brain. Homeless people are those who are unable to acquire regular housing or residence, and they can be spotted easily in the darker alleys of towns and cities all over the world. A fraction of this population is also characterized by aggressiveness, inability to retain recent memories, confusion and disorientation, and in most cases an infallible urge to relapse even after drug rehabilitation. That these are attitudes and markers often exhibited by TBI patients, or that a large sector of homeless people are battle veterans who are associated with TBI related injuries, is no longer a coincidence.

Research Ties in the Two Conditions

Upon screening dozens of homeless patients, Charles Preston, Director of Psychology services at the Valley Homeless Healthcare Program of the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, and his team discovered that a full 71 patients suffered from a form of TBI. Whether the brain injury came prior to the homelessness, or if it is as a result of the homeless condition, Preston cannot exactly surmise. That there is a definite correlation between the two phenomena, is a theory that Ciara Mahan, who first started the screening for cognitive problems among the homeless, would agree with. According to Mahan, this explains the reasons why many homeless individuals are very forgetful, may anger easily, and can be quite argumentative.

Homelessness, TBI, and Vices

It has been shown that a correlation exists between social vices such as addiction, substance abuse, drunkenness, and brain injury. The same exists with homelessness. Homeless individuals often exhibit tendencies towards substance abuse and other social vices. These vices along with socially and psychologically traumatic experiences such as social isolation, family breakdown, and disabilities can result in homelessness.

The Young Homeless Population

The correlation between homelessness and brain injury is not in resultant terms – none is a direct result of the other. Homelessness can result in brain injury. The number of accidents that homeless people get involved in, beatings of homeless people, poor living conditions, rougher and tougher neighborhoods and lifestyles can be a direct cause of brain damage. On the flip side, individuals with pre-existing traumatic brain injuries can also find it difficult to adjust to normal living conditions, leading to them becoming homeless. As many social scientists know correlation does not equal causation. This is a topic that needs deeper research and understanding in order to fully develop an accurate answer.

Can Video Games Help With Brain Surgery Rehabilitation?

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Do video games help recovering brain surgery patients? As reported in an article on Gizmodo, video games aided the recovery of Eric Levasseur, a patient who had to undergo 7 brain surgeries in an eleven-month period to stop his epileptic grand mal seizures. Eric’s side effects after the surgeries included memory loss, impaired speech, and short-term memory impairment.

According to the article, Eric’s doctor recommended brain training games on Luminosity, but the patient found them too difficult and too much like work, and elected to play Destiny, a multiplayer online game instead, with his doctor’s approval. Eric was able to play for increasingly longer periods without any noticeable impairment, and soon he was mapping out strategies and earning a reputation among players, as stated in the article.

In the game of Destiny, a player must have friends to go on Raids, as discussed in an article on the Daily Dot. As Eric had difficulty communicating, Raids with other players were a problem for him. When Eric’s wife, Brittany, included that information in a Reddit post, the Destiny community organized Raiding parties to assist him. As covered in the Gizmodo article, Eric has a long recovery road ahead, but playing Destiny could help make it shorter, and easier to endure.

There is evidence to suggest that video games can help victims recover from injuries to the brain. A Medpage Today article reports on a study conducted in Vienna in which TBI patients used video games to effectively improve their coordination. According to the article, researchers noted significantly improved scores for gait, balance, and functional reach in patients who participated in a virtual therapy session supported by Microsoft Xbox Kinect. Researchers also found that coordination, dynamic stability, and precision from baseline were greatly improved by this video game therapy.

The Games for Health Journal published an abstract of a structured literature review of the use of video games and virtual reality for rehabilitation after TBI. These researchers concluded that, although the evidence that virtual reality helps improve motor and cognitive function is limited, this approach does have the potential to provide alternative rehabilitation therapy for TBI patients.

The Brain Injury Peer Visitor Association offers a number of tools and aids for recovering brain injury patients. Links to various games are provided as helpful resources. Luminosity is listed and described as brain training that is effective. According to the association, Luminosity can make you smarter and more mentally fit, regardless of your age. The association also provides links to arcade games, strategy games, card games, and word games among its many resources.

Celebrity Brain Injury Spotlight

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Recovery from a brain injury can take years, or in some cases, the injured person can never recover full cognitive ability or motor control. The brain is a very difficult organ to treat, and while some patients, with time, can recover all or most of their abilities, others will live with long-term impairments. The degree of the injury as well as the location of impact are issues that affect the how well any patient will recover.

Case in point is comedian and celebrity Tracy Morgan, who almost a year after being involved in a terrible collision, is still suffering from headaches and problems with memory, as reported by NBC News. The source also revealed that almost 275,000 Americans suffer from a traumatic brain injury every year. There are many well-known celebrities who have suffered a significant change after a brain injury other than Mr. Morgan.

Some of the celebrities we know and love that have suffered a TBI include sports figures, actors and others. Some of the more recognizable celebrities who have dealt with the aftermath of a brain injury include names such as George Clooney, Gary Busey, Donald Sutherland, and Stevie Wonder. Extreme athletes who have suffered a TBI include Jeremy Lusk, Bethany Hamilton, Kevin Pearce and many others.

Car accidents and falls are the most common ways a regular person gets a traumatic brain injury, as was the case with comedian Tracy Morgan. The news source reveals that the damage has led Mr. Morgan to wonder if he will ever be able to return to comedy.

An impact on the head causes the brain to knock back and forth within the skull, ripping and tearing delicate connective tissue, often with bleeding, adding a serious risk associated with swelling and pressure, and the resultant lack of oxygen to the brain. Medical science has not advanced to the point in which the level of recovery for a victim can be accurately predicted, and only time can answer that question.

The brain has the capacity to “rewire” and to create new pathways around damage, but how each individual’s body responds to damage varies widely. Many people require memory aids to keep track of daily tasks, while others need full-time nursing care, and are unable to perform everyday tasks such as talking or remembering loved ones, much less walking, cooking meals and other simple tasks.

Those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, whether in a car or motorcycle accident, or in a fall, may have a long road to recovery. It is hoped that new technologies and advances in medical science will increase the numbers of victims who are able to fully recover from a TBI.

A Brain Injury Doesn’t Have to Be the End

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Moving Forward from a Brain Injury

Following an accident, the words “brain injury” are among the scariest a patient’s family can hear. Many assume that there will be no recovery, or, if there is, that their loved one will bear no semblance to the person they once knew. Indeed, for the first few weeks or even months, it’s difficult to know what the eventual outcome will be. The person could be unconscious, in a coma, or in a vegetative state. Even once a patient regains consciousness, even basic responsiveness to stimuli may be slow to return, and unpredictable.

Despite these potential dire signs, there is no need to despair. Many people who suffer brain injuries do make extraordinary recoveries, and go on to live long and full lives. Take Matthew Evans, for example. At the age of eight, he fell off a cliff and suffered a stroke, which caused severe brain damage. Initially, doctors did not expect Evans to be able to continue attending school. In spring of 2015, however, he walked across the stage and earned his Bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University. Though he is still partially paralyzed, he was able to take coursework alongside his peers, and is proud to have overcome these challenges to earn his diploma.

Brain Injury Recoveries: Factors in a Positive Outcome

Brain injuries are complex conditions, and their treatments are long and complex, too. There are many factors that affect outcome. Though the rate of improvement in brain function is often fastest during the first six months, people experience widely varying rates of improvement. CT scans or MRI’s are not necessarily predictive of long-range outcomes, even when the first test results are alarming. A patient who shows severe bleeding in the brain after an accident may make a full recovery (of course, the inverse is true—promising early scans can be misleading as well).

The work continues long after leaving the hospital: for years, patients must work on cognitive exercises and organization. Intelligence and emotional response to the process varies. People with high IQ’s often recover faster, although sometimes their awareness of the situation, and hence frustration, can be a significant emotional stumbling block. It’s very important to get cognitive treatment and therapy as early as possible; though the brain can heal by itself, early treatment tends to improve neurological outcomes. Most people’s lives are forever changed by a brain injury, and few cognitively feel exactly as they did prior to the injury. But though their lives will be different, they can be just as fulfilling, and incredible progress is possible.

Professional Sports and the Risk of Brain Injury

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When San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland made the decision to retire in his prime, it once again called attention the risks of suffering a traumatic brain injury that professional athletes face when playing America’s most popular sport. Many players are looking at the future and considering their health as more important than a career in professional football. A massive paycheck, at the end of the day, cannot balance out the health impacts that many of these athletes suffer later in life, or take place while playing the game. Borland felt that he didn’t want to wait until he suffered symptoms to quit the game; that could be too late, and he felt that he would prefer to live a long, healthy life.

The NFL has been avoiding this issue, and has consistently downplayed the symptoms that athletes playing pro football face after repeat concussions. There was much research that revealed that players were susceptible to various health problems from repeated head trauma, and despite the research to the contrary, the NFL was responsible for funding a study that claimed that the sport did not pose any extraordinary risk to players, and has even blamed journalists for shining a light on the problem, rather than dealing with traumatic brain injuries as a real issue of concern that must be addressed and resolved.

The Impact on the Brain: Repeated Concussions

Findings released by Dr. Bennet Omalu in 2005, as reported by Frontline, revealed that the autopsy findings on Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster who passed away at the early age of 50 showed that he had the brain of a much older person. PBS reports that other autopsies on former NFL players clearly indicated that in 76 out of 79 cases, the players had evidence of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative disease of the brain associated with repeated brain trauma and concussions).

Whether the NFL finally admits to the problem and addresses it or continues to try to downplay that this is a serious issue of concern, it has become ultimately clear that sports professionals are at high risk of suffering serious health problems associated with the pounding they take to the head in tackling and being tackled. Children involved in sports are also at risk of such injuries, and parents would be prudent to discuss these issues with coaches and trainers before allowing a child to participate in a sports program that could endanger their health for the long term.

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