At-Home Safety: Preventing Head Injuries

March 15, 2010
In honor of March’s designation as National Brain Injury Awareness Month, Dr. Todd Trask, a neurosurgeon at the Methodist Neurological Institute, offers tips on how to protect the head and prevent injuries.

Trask explained that head injuries are the result of trauma to the scalp, skull or brain. Concussion, the most common type of traumatic brain injury (TBI), occurs after a blow to the head and results in a temporary loss of consciousness. While some head injuries may appear to be mild, research has shown that concussions may have serious, long-term effects, especially when there are repeated injuries. Regularly participating in sports can increase the risk of head injury.

Moderate or severe traumatic brain injury is more serious than a concussion, Trask said. Someone who suffers a TBI may appear fine after an accident or blow to the head, but this type of brain injury can be life threatening because the brain can swell or have bleeding on the surface. If not treated, irreversible brain damage or death can occur.

“It is extremely important that someone who suffers a head injury be monitored closely,” Trask said. “Many of the patients treated at the Methodist Neurological Institute show no signs of brain trauma immediately after experiencing a head injury. It can take a few hours or even days for symptoms of brain injury to appear.

Signs of brain trauma may include:

• Swelling at the site of the injury;
• Change in consciousness, confusion or unusual behavior;
• Severe headache;
• Convulsions;
• Stiff neck or vomiting;
• Low breathing rate and drowsiness;
• Fluid draining from the nose, mouth or ears; and
• Inability to move one or more limbs.

Trask stressed that acting fast is key when someone suffers a brain injury. The sooner someone with brain trauma receives medical attention, the better chance they have for recovery.

Reduce your chance of developing brain trauma by taking necessary safety precautions:

• Always wear a helmet or safety cap when playing sports or participating in an activity that has potential to cause head injury;
• Always wear a seat belt when operating or riding in a motor vehicle;
• When driving, always make sure children are seated in age-appropriate car seats that are installed properly; and
• Avoid direct head-to-head contact when participating in any athletic sport.

“I see all kinds of head injuries caused by various types of accidents. Most of the injuries I treat could have been prevented,” Trask said.

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