Head Injuries: Causes and prevention

The top 4 causes of Head Injuries and how to avoid them

Every 21 seconds someone in India sustains a traumatic head injury. More than one and a half million Indians suffer from head injuries annually, and over 80,000 of these injuries sustain permanent irreversible damage.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, head injuries are the leading cause of death in young adults and children. The CDC further finds that head injuries account for 44% of all injury related deaths.

The four most common causes of head injuries or TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) are:

  1. Car accidents (passenger and pedestrian)
  2. Bicycle/motorcycle accidents
  3. Falls (especially kids and the elderly)
  4. Acts of violence/assault

Our brains allow us to interpret ourselves and the world around us. When we sustain a head injury there’s a disruption in the brains ability to store, process, accumulate and retrieve information. Damage to the brain can interfere with our ability to control emotions and interact socially.

Types and symptoms of head injuries:

Most head injuries are preventable. Most head injuries do not result in permanent brain damage.

Although it is common to forget what happened immediately prior to, during and immediately following injury, great care should be taken as symptoms showing the full extent of a head injury may not develop for days.

Injuries can range from minor damage to the scalp and face, including laceration, bruising, and abrasions, to more serious altering damage to the brain itself.

These are some of the most common types of head injuries:

  • Loss of consciousness: even for a short period of time, is one of the clearest indicators of the brain being affected from an injury.
  • Concussion: Jarring injury to the brain including passing out (short term)
  • Brain contusion: Bruise of the brain with bleeding in brain causing swelling
  • Skull fracture: Broken skull cuts the brain and delicate tissues causing bleeding
  • Hematoma: Bleeding in brain collecting clots, forming bumps

These are the symptoms to watch for following a blow to the head:

Headaches Irritability Lethargy
Balance Depression Problems concentrating
Nausea Memory loss Fatigue
Difficulty collecting thoughts Bad taste in mouth Trouble walking (balance)
Slurred speech Trouble sleeping Dilated pupils
Ringing in ears Drainage of bloody or clear fluids from nose or ears Neck pain
Anxiety Weakness or numbness in limbs  

Preventing head injuries from vehicle accidents

50,000 children are hit by a car each year, often with serious brain injuries. Well over 50% of all head injuries in the US involve car accidents. This includes passengers and pedestrians. A pedestrian is killed in traffic accident every 107 minutes. Most car accidents for passengers are due to improper use of seatbelts and child restraints. Seatbelts and airbags are the best method of prevention when riding in the car. In the last 10 years seat belts have prevented over 55,000 deaths.

Keys to preventing head injury involving a vehicle:

  • For adults and children over 12, airbags used with lap-shoulder belts offer the most effective safety protection.
  • Children in rear facing seats should always be in the back seat.
  • Infants and children under 12 and should always be in the back seat using seatbelt.
  • Never put infant in front seat, rear facing or otherwise.
  • For pedestrians: If walking after dark wear bright, reflective clothing.
  • Do not wear headphones when crossing streets.
  • Teach children to look left, right and then left again before crossing the street

Bicycle/motorcycle accidents

Nearly 80% of fatal bicycle crashes are due to head injuries. Further statistics estimate that only 20% of people wear helmets while bike riding. Of the 3,50,000 people involved in bike related accidents annually, 1,30,000 sustain head injuries. Motorcyclists are 14 times more likely to die in a crash and 3 times more likely to incur a head injury.

Preventing head injury in a bike or motorcycle

Helmets are 85-88% effective in preventing head injuries. Make sure you and your child’s helmet fits directly over the forehead with a chain strap, and meets the standards of safety commission.

For children: help them to understand and obey safety rules of the road and always exercise caution when in traffic.

Here are key bicycle safety habits:

  • Stop at stop signs
  • Obey all traffic lights
  • Yield to all pedestrians
  • Take great care of intersections
  • Ride with traffic – never against
  • Use bike lanes whenever present
  • Check driveways and alleys
  • Watch for turning cars and parked cars (opening doors)
  • Ride single file in the street, never side by side
  • Never share a seat
  • Have reflectors/headlights for low visibility and night riding
  • Never use headphones while biking
  • Use correct hand signals and always look behind you before changing lanes

Falls are a top cause of head injury – Especially to seniors and kids

Additionally, 1.8 million seniors (65 and over) are treated in the ER for falls. Over 4,21,000 are hospitalized each year. Falls are the leading cause of head injuries for the elderly. In fall-related deaths, 60% are 75 or older. Many seniors have problems with balance, environmental hazards such as uneven floors, loose rugs, unstable furniture and poor lighting.

How seniors can prevent falls?

  • Exercise regularly to maintain strength; see your doctor before starting any exercise regime.
  • Install grab bars/non-slip mats/handrails/lights.
  • Remove items, such as personal effects or extension cords that are easy to trip over.
  • Review all possible side-effects of medications.
  • Use safe non-slip shoes.
  • Be sure to get regular vision tests and ensure you can see clearly.

Acts of violence

Assaults and violence acts are responsible for over 10% of all reported head injuries

More facts about head injuries:

10 million patients currently live without disabilities resulting from traumatic head injury.

Scientists believe out brain is the organ of reason, language, social skills and morality, and that our brains and its complexities are what make us uniquely human. When head injuries occur, the severity of head injuries are made through measuring abilities of three functional systems in the brain: intellect, emotion and behavior control. Permanent disabilities can include problems with cognition, sensory perception, communication and behavior/mental health. As always, knowledge of how to prevent them and acting on this knowledge are the main weapons you have in avoiding head injuries.

 

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