Off-the-Job Safety: Use Your Head During the Holidays

During the winter holidays, people tend to be absorbed in celebration and may not be as careful as usual. That's why the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) is reminding people that many injuries can be prevented by removing potential hazards inside and outside the home, following proper driving precautions and playing sports safely.

In 2005, an estimated 1 million people were treated at U.S. hospital emergency rooms for head injuries related to common products found around the home, while an additional 15,000 were treated for head injuries related to motor vehicles. Winter sports contributed to nearly 26,000 estimated head injuries. Statistics such as these show how holiday fun can too quickly turn into a life-shattering tragedy that could have been prevented by simply taking proper safety precautions.

The 2005 head injury statistics from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission include the following winter-related products, which contributed to thousands of head injuries treated in emergency rooms:

Home Products

  • Toys (all categories): 13,663
  • Fireplaces (all types combined): 4,251
  • Heaters (all types combined): 1,542
  • Manual snow removal tools: 561
  • Outerwear: 441
  • Christmas decorations (non-electric): 345
  • Christmas tree lights: 295
  • Snow throwers/blowers: 83
  • Artificial Christmas trees: 75

Winter Sports (including apparel and equipment)

  • Ice hockey: 6,069
  • Snow boarding: 5,912
  • Snow skiing: 4,917
  • Sleds, snow disks and toboggans: 4,637
  • Ice skating: 2,853
  • Snow tubing: 701
  • Snowmobiles: 540

Off-the-Job Safety Tips from AANS

AANS offers these tips to help prevent head injuries when at home, driving or participating in sports:

  • Remove hazards in the home that may contribute to falls. Secure rugs and loose electrical cords, put away toys, use safety gates and install window guards.
  • Remove ice and snow to help prevent falls outside the home.
  • Buy toys that are age-appropriate for the child and discard them when they break.
  • Install grab bars and handrails if you are frail or elderly.
  • Wear a seatbelt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle.
  • Never drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or ride as a passenger with anybody else who is under the influence.
  • Buy and use helmets or protective headgear approved by the ASTM for specific sports 100 percent of the time.
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the sport.
  • Do not participate in sports when you are ill or very tired.

AANS has free downloadable fact sheets on injury prevention at http://www.NeurosurgeryToday.org under Patient Safety Tips.

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