Brain Injury Awareness Month is a dedicated time to raise awareness, share resources and educate on traumatic brain injuries. Brain injuries can be a distressing and truly life-changing injury to sustain, in England and Wales 1.4 million patients per year attend hospital following a head injury. NCBI report that this is the most common cause of death under the age of 40. With the outbreak of COVID-19, perhaps it can be seen as a blessing in disguise that these figures seem to be decreasing. With young people and adults shortly being able to head down to the local pub or nightclub and partake in heavy alcohol consumption, it is clear that now is the right time to make people aware of these detrimental risks. This article will outline three everyday hazards that can cause brain injuries to highlight and mitigate risks and de-stigmatize injury, along with statistics and measures for avoidance.
Always wear your seatbelt
It is important to note the importance in wearing a seatbelt every time you start a journey – whether the journey is short or familiar. TBI’s from motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause with a 52% TBI related hospitalizations. You are in a serious risk of injury to yourself and others by choosing to not wear a seatbelt, and statistics show that drivers and passengers aged 17-34 have the lowest seatbelt wearing rates, and this is also combined with the highest accident rate. Practising road safety is catastrophically important in ensuring your brains health and safety. Think! has introduced an emoji road safety campaign, raising awareness about the dangers of drink driving, drug driving, not wearing a seat belt and using a mobile phone at the wheel.
Alcohol and brain injury
Alcohol is known for blurred vision, slurred speech, difficulty walking, and fuzzy memory. These symptoms are all affects from the brain. Over a long period of time, heavy drinking can cause brain deficits that will persist even in sobriety. Specifically, in TBI, 35-81% of injured patients are alcohol-intoxicated, whereas 42% were heavy drinkers before injury. Heavy drinking can range from blackouts in memory, to debilitating conditions requiring lifetime residential care. Whilst having a drink or two in moderation and on the odd occasion is considered socially acceptable and ultimately low risk – engaging in binge drinking regularly can have problematic effects on the brain. If you feel that you are struggling with alcohol consumption, please do not hesitate to reach out to resources such as NHS and Mind for support and advice in overcoming addiction.
Check your surroundings.
Falls are very common in older adults, however simple mistakes such as tripping hazards, bad lighting, and nonslip mats in the shower can be a nasty mistake that anybody can make. Falls were the secondary leading cause of TBI in 2014, with 48% of all TBI-related emergency room visits for 0–17-year-olds. However, in the elderly, 81% of TBI’s were caused by falls. More than a third of injuries take place in the bathroom, prevent these hazards by making sure you have a nonslip mat to stand on, and a mat to step onto once you are out rather than a fluffy rug. If you are feeling faint or dizzy, avoid stepping into the shower. In the home, make sure to clean the floors regularly of clutter and wires to avoid anyone falling over these objects. If you have children, prevent head injuries by using safety gates at the top and the bottom of the stairs and installing window guards. Whilst these are relatively simple ways to prevent falling, they are also often overlooked and performing these simple safety tasks can protect yourself and your family more than you may think.