rob photoMarch is National Brain Injury Awareness Month. March 12, 2014 is Brain Injury Awareness Day. Each year, 2.4 million Americans sustain a brain injury.

My job as the Safe Kids Vermont Coordinator is to help reduce unintentional injuries, in partnership with our lead agency, The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital. As a former athletic trainer at a local high school, I have seen my fair share of injuries. Unfortunately, one of the most common injuries I saw was a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) also referred to as a concussion.

The symptoms would range from a slight headache to memory loss and balance problems.

A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. This is an extremely important health issue for the following reasons:

  • An estimated 1.7 million people sustain a TBI annually. Of them:
    • 52,000 die,
    • 275,000 are hospitalized, and
    • 1.365 million, nearly 80 percent, are treated and released from an emergency department.
  • About 75 percent of TBIs that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).

Children are one of the most vulnerable populations. Children between the age of 0 and 4 years old, and 15 to 19 years old are the most likely to sustain a TBI. Younger children take longer to recover from a concussion than older children.

Give your child a “head” start on smart and safe habits by following these suggestions:

  • Always wear helmets in sports activities (skiing, bicycling, skateboarding, riding ATV’s, hockey, etc.) during which accidents and falls might result in a head injury. Helmets may reduce severe TBIs by 88 percent!
  • Wear a seatbelt. They reduce the incidence of injury in a car crash by 40 percent.

Follow the examples of my friends and local helmet ambassadors, and protect your brain!

Christina Keating is the Injury Prevention Coordinator/Safe Kids Vermont Coordinator at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

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