Posts Tagged ‘brain injury’

Preventing Brain Injuries During Winter Sport Season

Although summer is the season best known for outdoor activities, winter is often overlooked as a season full of outdoor fun and sports. From ice skating with a group of friends at the local rink to joining the ski team at school, there are numerous activities for everyone to enjoy as the snow falls and the temperatures begin to drop. As with every sporting activity, either for fun or as part of an organized league, there is the potential to be injured.

 

Sporting injuries often include sprains, strains, and minor fractures, but some of the most serious include a life changing brain injury. Here are some ways to prevent a brain injury while enjoying some of your favorite winter sports:

Snowboarding and Skiing

 

If you’ve ever hit the slopes, you may have noticed children as young as preschool aged and even elderly adults enjoying the skiing and snowboarding. For safety reasons, ski resorts often urge novice skiers and snowboarders  to use the “beginner” hills and for many beginners, the starter hill is big enough. Although people, who are new to skiing and snowboarding, may be more likely to be injured while flying down the hill, skiers and snowboarders of all ages and expertise levels are at risk of concussions, even professionally trained skiers and snowboarders.

 

The best way to avoid a head injury is to wear a helmet. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, approximately 10 million Americans ski or snowboard each year and an estimated 600,000 injuries are a result from hitting the slopes. Of those injuries, approximately 20% are head injuries, many were reported not wearing a helmet.

Ice Hockey and Ice Skating

 

Have you ever wondered why hockey players wear a helmet and a figure skater doesn’t? While hockey players are at a much greater risk for suffering a TBI, due to the contact nature of the sport, figure skaters could be a risk of bumping his or her head with a fall during a routine. Again, the level of expertise doesn’t automatically make you immune from getting a head injury.

 

Children are at a particularly high risk for head injuries when participating in ice sports. If your child wants to get involved in winter ice sports, it’s crucial that he or she wears a helmet, particularly in the learning stages. Talk to the instructors and see what their protocol is for preventing head injuries and other types of injuries.

 

All Other Types of Winter Activities

Winter is full of fun activities from sledding, curling, snowshoeing, and walking around the neighborhood during a light snowfall. While many of these types of activities seem relatively harmless, you are still at risk of a head injury. Why? Ice is the dangerous factor in a majority of winter sport injuries. It’s often hard to see and it can be hard to recover once you start slipping. Wearing a helmet all day long is not a feasible option, but you can reduce your risk by wearing ice cleats on your boots or shoes and walk slowly, focusing on the surface on which you’re walking.

Does a Language Barrier Prevent Proper Care for Brain Injuries?

language barrier

When you or someone you love suffers from a traumatic brain injury, it can be a scary experience that can often become complicated and difficult to understand. Now imagine if your native language prevents you from understanding or receiving the care you or your loved one needs to recover from a life changing injury? A new study out of the University of Washington reveals that children from families, where English is not their first language or have a limited understanding of English, are less likely to get the important rehabilitative care they need after suffering from a TBI.

 

The Study

The University of Washington conducted a study, surveying almost 300 various health care providers, throughout the state of Washington, who specialize in physical/occupational therapy, speech, language, cognitive therapy, and mental health services; all of these services are important for brain injury rehabilitation. Research results revealed that less than 20% of health care providers provide language interpretation to non-English speaking children, who have suffered a TBI, and their families and only 8% provide mental health services to children with a TBI. Additionally, only 46% of providers accepted children with Medicaid, which resulted in fewer rehabilitation services than patients who are covered by private insurance.

Sadly, due to the language barrier and the inability to receive private insurance, many children who suffer brain injuries may never receive proper and crucial care they need, particularly when their brains are still developing.

 

Children and Brain Injuries

Children ages 0 to 4 and 15 to 19 are at greatest risk of suffering a traumatic brain injury and youth brain injuries are much different than those of adults. It is often assumed that children “bounce back” faster from a brain injury or are not affected as severely as an adult, however, a child’s brain injury is often more devastating to a developing brain. Additionally, certain impairments, such as cognitive, may not be easily identified or even present immediately after a TBI occurs. As a result, many children suffer from delayed effects and face challenges for a lifetime, requiring long term rehabilitative care. Children may also have a difficult time expressing how he or she feels or accurately describe any challenges he or she may be having with judgement, reasoning, or processing information.

Now, consider a child (and his or her parents), who does not speak the same language as his or her doctor. Not only is there the possibility of a delay in getting immediate treatment, but he or she may continue to struggle as he or she gets older, particularly if crucial services are not available.

 

Bridging the Gap

Although it may be baffling as to why children, regardless of their economic status or language, are not receiving the care they need, a solution needs to bridge the gap in adequate health care. Since a significant amount of care that a child may need after a brain injury happens outside of the hospital, medical health care professionals are responsible in helping families make the right connections in their community, regardless of their financial status or first language.

 

Preventing Brain Injuries During Summer Activities

summer safety

Summer is the quintessential season for heading outdoors, soaking up the sun and fresh air, and getting active. While children are typically more active than adults during the summer season, both children and adults are at risk of suffering a traumatic brain injury while engaging in a summer activity. Here are some tips for preventing a brain injury during your favorite summer activities:

Swimming & Water Sports

 

Summer wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the beach or pool and it’s a great way to cool off and relax at the peak of summer, but it’s also a potentially dangerous season for brain and head injuries. According to the most recent data available on brain or head injuries released from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 28,716 head injuries occurred in 2009 during a water sport (diving, scuba diving, surfing, swimming, water polo, water skiing, and water tubing. One of the best ways to avoid a head injury while participating in a water sport is to be careful and responsible about diving. Here are some tips to avoid an injury while diving:

 

  • Always enter the water feet first.
  • Never dive into the shallow end of a pool or before checking for objects beneath the water’s surface.
  • Avoid alcohol when you’re participating in any water sport.
  • Know how to avoid and get out of a rip current.

 

Experts also recommend that individuals wear a safety helmet when wakeboarding, kayaking, or when river rafting.

Bicycling, Skating, & Skateboarding

 

According to a study from the New England Journal of Medicine, safety helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88%. Both children and adults should wear a helmet when participating in any wheeled sports like bicycling, in-line/roller skating, scootering and skateboarding. Even the most skilled and experienced individuals are at risk for falling and hitting his or her head on or against a hard surface or be struck by a car.

 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that each year about 2% of motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists and head/brain injuries were responsible for the majority of deaths. The best way to avoid a serious brain injury while riding a bicycle is to simply wear a bicycle helmet, regardless if you’re just riding around your neighborhood, on a trail free from motorists, or on the roadways. There are no federal laws in the U.S. requiring the use of bicycle helmets, but in 22 states, bicycle helmets are required for most individuals under the age of 16. Law or not, always encourage your child to wear a helmet and be a good (and safe) role model by wearing one yourself.

Motorcycles

 

Just like bicycling, motorcyclists are at risk of suffering head and brain injuries when involved in an accident. Currently, only 19 states require that motorcyclists wear a helmet, but all motorcyclists and their passengers should wear a helmet, law or not. Motorcyclists that wear a helmet have up to a 73% lower fatality rate than unhelmeted riders. Additionally, unhelmeted motorcyclists are over three times as likely to suffer a brain injury than those who were a helmet.

 

Nutrition Helping Brain Injuries

nutrition for brain injury

An injury to your body can be extremely debilitating. It can inhibit normal functions like driving, picking up objects off the floor, getting out of bed in the morning, and even brushing your teeth. Injuries are frustrating as they are painful and interrupt your life. The most difficult injury one might face is an injury to the head that can severely affect the mind. In some cases one can develop memory loss, severe headaches, vocal challenges, and bodily functions. Some people; unfortunately, never fully recover.

 

According to the Institute of Medicine, someone suffers a traumatic brain injury every 23 seconds. Brain injuries are common among athletes, those in vehicle accidents, and service members. Leaving an injury untreated can lead to paralysis and death.  Studies have shown that nutrition can also help in the healing process. Eating the right foods can help stimulate brain activity and soothe traumatized areas. Nutrition is the key to restoring normalcy to the brain and body. Yet the amount of food intake should be modified and measured in the very beginning as the patient is in a very delicate state.

 

Nutrition Options for rehabilitation:

 

Eating healthy is known to be part of the healing process for brain injury victims. One of the richest foods that a person with a brain injury can consume is omega-3 fatty acids. According to studies, most Americans are deficient in omega-3, and are said to have deficiencies associated with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. Omega-3 fatty acids make up part of brain cells and are contained in like flaxseed, fish oil, fish and walnuts. These ingredients are essentially brain food and are essential in helping rehabilitate trauma caused by brain injuries.

 

Eating foods high in protein help in the healing process. Proteins like fish, beans and chicken contain amino acids that also help repair damaged tissues in the body. Other foods vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are also healthy options. Eggs and peanuts are also necessary for the brain’s healing as they contain a vitamin called choline. And finally, you can never go wrong with water. Water is perhaps the most crucial for people living with brain injuries. Since dehydration impairs brain function, it is invaluable that someone with a brain injury drink water. It is best to consult one’s physician for recommended dosage.

 

Some Practical Ways to Help Heal:

 

Food to avoid during healing. Caffeine, salty foods, excessive sweets and candy, alcohol are among the things to avoid if you’re recovering from a brain injury.

 

Exercise. Never underestimate the importance of exercise. Brain injury victims who exercise during recovery are said to experience less depression, have fewer cognitive complaints and symptoms, and irritability. It is important to consult with a physician as over-exerting yourself may regress the healing process.

 

Acupuncture. Acupuncture is said to help soothe brain injury as it alleviates headaches, helps with sleep, and helps with overall wellness.   .

 

Taking pain medicine is also helpful during recovery and under the observation of a physician,  as it can help soothe pain and trauma. Patients should consider numerous avenues during the healing process, including therapy with a counselor, and physical therapy. Sensitive and intensive care is important during recovery.

Do Brain Injuries Lead to Violence?

violence

Recently, in the news, it was revealed that the mercurial and violent King Henry VIII may have become the person he was known for due to numerous head injuries throughout his life. Henry VIII, infamously known for having two of his six wives executed and by being a tyrannical leader with sociopathic tendencies had at least three traumatic brain injuries, one in a jousting accident. While Henry VIII was not known to be a man of “good health”, he also was known to suffer from memory issues and other behaviors that are often directly linked to head injuries.

 

Linking traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) to violent behaviors does not make violence towards others a passable excuse nor should it necessarily be used in the line of defense, but it helps researchers better understand the potential effects of TBIs and how to strive to prevent them.

Football & Violence

 

In recent years, professional football players have become the faces behind traumatic brain injuries. Not only have TBIs and reoccurring concussions been attributed to memory loss issues in retired football players well before their “golden years”, but similar head injuries have been suggested to have a correlation between football players and domestic violence.

 

According to a report from USA Today, there were 38 arrests of NFL players in 2015. Of the arrests, there were 15 arrests made because of violent behavior including animal cruelty, sexual battery, assault, and domestic violence. Domestic violence resulted in 6 arrests or about 15% of all NFL arrests in 2015.

 

Does it mean that all of the football players, who were arrested on violent charges, had suffered from recurrent head injuries? No, but given the statistics surrounding former football players and head injuries (96% of football players studied had signs of a brain injury), a head injury could very well contribute to violent behavior.

 

Here’s another thing to consider: According to Dr. Allison Brooks, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, football players are also prone to high risk behavior (playing football is risky) and may choose to partake in alcohol, drug use, and other high-risk factors that could contribute to violent behavior.

Do All Brain Injuries Lead to Violent Behavior?

 

The answer to this question is simply, “No”. If all brain injuries lead to violent behavior, there would be an even more staggering amount of violence. The behavioral changes that take place after a brain injury greatly depend on where, within the brain, the injury occurred. For instance, if the cerebellum (or base of skull) is injured, the individual may experience loss of coordination or the ability to walk or grab.

 

When the frontal lobe (the area behind the forehead) is injured, the changes of behavior may include intolerance for frustration and easily provoked aggressive behavior.

It’s important to remember that although an individual may have sustained a TBI to the frontal lobe, it cannot be assumed that every individual will exhibit aggressive behavior and/or act out on those tendencies.

 

Concussion Recovery Tips

concussion recovery

Concussions are scary, but recovering from a concussion can be boring. You’re confused, you don’t want to do much, and you’re probably a little unsure of what to do and what to avoid. And recovery times can vary greatly.

Luckily, many people have gone through what you’re doing, and many medical experts have good advice about your recommended activities following a concussion. Here are some of them. Concussions are a pain, but there are good steps you can take to ensure your recovery is as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

Stay Home From Work

You may not be sick, exactly, but a concussion is a very good occasion to use your sick time. Stay home from work. Rest is one of the most important things you can do for yourself when you are recovering from a concussion.

Going to work, on the other hand, is probably a bad idea. Working your brain will slow down your recovery time. Doctors suggest you take it easy. You should listen to your doctors. And if your boss is skeptical about your request, remind her or him that the work you would do if your did come in would be sub-par because your mind is not fully functioning. Stay home from work if you’ve got a concussion.

Get Some Light Reading Done

This advice is not for everyone. Doctors advise people with concussions to avoid straining their minds, and for many people, reading of any kind is work. But for serious readers, some light reading might be a good idea.

Just make sure you stick to the easy stuff. Intellectual strain is not recommended for concussion sufferers, so you’ll want to avoid highly technical or complex literary works. Grab some easy beach reading and enjoy.

Eat Up!

Eating is a great way to pass the time, and a concussion is a perfect opportunity to lay off your diet. Ask a trusted person to pick up some good grub for you while you recover. Don’t feel guilty about overeating; you’re in recovery, and some extra calories might give your body the energy it needs to get some extra clean-up work done.

Remember, though, that cooking is a complicated task. Don’t work too hard to get your meals. Order in, or ask a spouse to whip some food up for you.

Take Naps

Nothing rests your mind like sleep. Sleep is the ultimate way your brain has to shut off and build up energy. Doctors recommend that concussion sufferers get an abundance of rest, and napping is one of the best ways to do that. Keep in mind that many medical professionals recommend staying awake immediately after the concussion causing impact itself; speak with your doctor to find out when you should start sleeping.

So get comfy, curl up with your pets and a warm blanket, and take it easy. This will speed up your recovery, help you to put your thoughts together, and avoid doing anything silly in public. Concussions leave you confused, and you will almost certainly want to take lots of naps. Listen to your instinct and get some sleep.  

 

Games : Do They Help with Brain Injury Therapy?

These days, there are a number of online and app “brain games” that are designed to keep the mind sharp and to even aid in the recovery of a brain injury. With so many games to chose from, how do we know what works and what is worth our time, particularly if there is a subscription fee?

Do Popular “Brain Games” Really Work?

 

Recently, the company that produces the widely popular “brain game”, Lumosity, agreed to pay a $2 million settlement to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for running deceptive ads. Lumos Labs, the creator of Lumosity, claimed that its popular online game can help users perform better at everyday tasks, at work and school, and even ward off any cognitive impairments due to Alzheimer’s, TBI, and PTSD. When the brain is affected by such disorders or injuries, certain aspects such as attention, language, memory, creativity, problem solving, and perception may be changed.

 

With frequent use, some users may see an “improvement” when playing the same game over and over, but there isn’t enough concrete evidence that its daily use actually wards off cognitive impairments. That said, some experts say that many brain game apps and other games found online won’t do any harm for users, but there’s not enough scientific data to make any bold claims. Many brain games improve memory and stimulate the brain, but if an issue within the brain isn’t properly diagnosed, a brain game should never be used as an alternative for other forms of therapy.

What Kind of “Brain Games” Work?

 

Games can be useful and important when working with individuals who have suffered a TBI or even a stroke. Not only can it add a little fun to therapy, but the right type of game can help target the cognitive area that needs work. For example, some individuals with brain injuries struggle with concentration or memory while others have difficulty finding the right words or have a difficult time with speech. Here are some examples of games that have been used in therapy and have been successful:

 

  • Card Game WAR: It requires players to pay constant attention and keep track of each card’s rank

 

 

  • Battleship: This classic game of strategy challenges players to work on language, planning, reasoning, and fine motor skills.

 

 

  • Concentration: The name says it all, but it also focuses on memory when the players need to remember where certain matching cards are located. Concentration is key to succeed at this game.

 

  • Crossword Puzzles: The great thing about crossword puzzles is that there are various levels and once someone “graduates” from a certain level, there are more challenges ahead. Crossword puzzles challenge individuals with brain injuries or other cognitive impairments to find the right word.

 

 

  • Jigsaw Puzzles: Like crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles offer a variety of levels and they challenge motor skills and concentration.

 

 

While there may be no “tried and true” brain game created for all, keeping the brain active (particularly after a brain injury) can help regain some cognitive abilities.

At-Risk Groups for Traumatic Brain Injury

football brain injury

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.

Energy Drinks & TBI

 

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.

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