The Medical Minute: March is brain injury awareness month

Mar 24, 2011 By Susan Rzucidlo

March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month. Traumatic brain injuries are disruptions or changes in the way the brain functions that occur due to a blow or jolt to the head or penetrating injuries. The severity can range from mild to severe. Brain injuries are the most common cause of death and lifelong disability for children. According to data from the Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, the brain injuries that top the list are from sports, bike crashes, falls, or motor vehicle crashes.

The most common brain injuries are concussions. Even though they are the least severe of the brain injuries, they must be managed in a prompt and coordinated way. Most children and adults with a concussion recover quickly and fully, while some will have symptoms that last for days, or even weeks. The effects of a more serious concussion can last for months or longer. A repeat concussion that occurs before the brain recovers from the first (usually within a short period) can be very dangerous and can slow recovery or increase the chances for long-term problems. A repeat concussion can even be fatal.

Most concussions occur without a loss of consciousness. It is important that with older children -- especially those involved in sports -- parents, coaches and school nurses know the causes for concussions and symptoms. Some common symptoms are amnesia or loss of memory of events before or after the injury occurred, headache, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light or noises, difficulty concentrating and sleep changes. It is important to seek medical care with a concussion management expert. The Penn State Hershey Concussion Program is comprised of a team of physicians and other providers who can evaluate and manage the injured child and teen after a concussion.

The concussion program provides expert care for the brain injuries and is equally committed to spreading the word that injuries can be prevented. Ways to prevent head injuries change with the age of the child and depending on what they are doing that may cause the injury. The injury reduction activities at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital Pediatric Trauma and Injury Prevention Program address these major injury risk areas, considering the risks as children progress through developmental stages. The program components include education for children, families and health care providers; distribution of safety devices and evaluation; and research of strategies to reduce injuries.

And a minute on helmets …

For all ages from toddlers to adults, a properly fitted helmet can reduce the risk of brain injuries by 88 percent; however, only one out of five cyclists ages 5 to 14 usually wears a helmet. Also, often the incorrect helmet is used for other sports, such as wearing a bike helmet for skiing or baseball. A helmet should be labeled to indicate that it is certified by a reputable standards and testing organization - ANSI, Snell or ASTM International.

Reminder to children, parents and caregivers:

-- Make sure the helmet fits and you know how to put it on correctly. In a crash, the risk of head injury is doubled if the helmet is worn incorrectly. A helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position, and should not rock forward and backward or side to side. The helmet straps must always be buckled but not too tightly.

-- Remember bike helmets are for riding bikes and other human-powered wheels. Kids should not wear bike on the playground (where the straps can get caught on equipment and cause injury) or for activities that require specialized helmets (such as skiing or football). Bike helmets are appropriate for roller skating, inline skating and skateboarding without aerial stunts, and for use with nonmotorized scooters. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that children under 12 wear a bike helmet while sledding.

-- When in doubt, get help. The helmets are sized according to head size. If you are unsure about how to select or fit a helmet, seek assistance at a sporting goods store or bike shop or go to bike helmet safety institute at .

Explore further: Doctors to help shape the future of revalidation

Related Stories

Is it time for all skiers to wear helmets?

Feb 10, 2011

In a bid to decrease brain injuries from skiing and snowboarding accidents, experts in an editorial published in the British Medical Journal today are calling for more public awareness to promote ski helmets.

Concussions not taken seriously enough, researcher says

Jan 18, 2010

Despite growing public interest in concussions because of serious hockey injuries or skiing deaths, a researcher from McMaster University has found that we may not be taking the common head injury seriously enough.

Motorcycle helmets reduce spine injuries after collisions

Feb 09, 2011

Motorcycle helmets, long known to dramatically reduce the number of brain injuries and deaths from crashes, appear to also be associated with a lower risk of cervical spine injury, new research from Johns Hopkins suggests.

Head injuries increase after motorcycle helmet law repeal

Jun 12, 2008

Pennsylvania motorcyclists suffered large increases in head injury deaths and hospitalizations in the two years following the repeal of its motorcycle helmet law, according to a University of Pittsburgh study to be published ...

Recommended for you

Is phosphate the next sodium?

8 minutes ago

Is phosphate the next sodium—a once seemingly benign food additive now linked to heart disease and death? It's nearly as ubiquitous as sodium in processed foods but so under the radar, it's not even listed ...

'Stunning' number of extreme drug doses by doc, expert says

1 hour ago

Patients of a Detroit-area doctor received "stunning" doses of a powerful, expensive drug, exposing them to life-threatening infections, an expert testified Monday as a judge heard details about a cancer specialist who fleeced ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.