March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness and understanding of traumatic brain injury (TBI). A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury.
Brain injuries can affect anyone from athletes on the football field to soldiers on the battlefield. In fact, TBI is one of the leading causes of death and disability around the world.
70% of concussion patients recover within a few weeks, while 30% still have symptoms after one month. Early intervention is the KEY to recovery. There are many ways people can prevent residual effects from brain injuries, like being able to recognize symptoms when they occur, seeking medical attention as soon as possible after an injury occurs, receiving proper treatment, and supporting loved ones who have suffered a brain injury.
To help you understand more about concussions and how to care for yourself or someone else with this type of brain injury, we’ve prepared this article that covers topics such as causes of TBIs, symptoms to look out for, and available treatment options and prevention tips. Read on to learn more!
Why TBI Awareness Is Essential
TBI, or brain trauma, can happen to anyone at any time. It is most commonly caused by a direct blow to the head or sudden force to the head and neck, such as in sports-related activities, falls, physical violence, motor vehicle accidents, and explosive blasts. It is important to note that you DO NOT have to hit your head or lose consciousness to have a concussion. If you experience or witness either a forceful blow to the head or a rapid acceleration/deceleration to the head and neck, resulting in even one symptom of headache, dizziness, nausea, fogginess, or confusion, you have a concussion. As a coach or a witness, the general rule is, IF IN DOUBT, SIT IT OUT until further assessment can be performed.
The effects of brain injury vary greatly depending on the severity of the injury but may include:
- physical impairments
- cognitive impairments
- emotional/behavioral changes
- communication difficulties
- Balance problems
- Visual impairments
- Blood flow abnormalities
Brain injury awareness is so important and can help people identify signs and symptoms of brain trauma. Along with encouraging people to seek medical attention as soon as possible and providing support for those affected by brain injuries.
What Causes A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a brain disorder caused by a sudden physical force, such as a blow or force to the head and neck. It can occur in any age group, from young children to seniors. The most common causes of TBI include falls, motor vehicle accidents, violence, and sports-related injuries.
But what causes a brain injury? Most commonly, brain injuries occur when a person experiences a sudden and violent impact to the head. This force causes acceleration and deceleration of the brain. Shearing forces between the white and the gray matter cause chemical changes in the brain, resulting in a temporary loss of normal brain function. An object penetrating the skull and entering brain tissue can also cause TBI.
The Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) You Should Know
The symptoms of a brain injury can vary greatly depending on the severity and type of brain trauma experienced. Common signs of TBI include confusion, dizziness, headache, memory loss, impaired mental ability, and difficulty concentrating.
Other symptoms may include visual disturbances, such as blurred vision or double vision, light and/or noise sensitivity, ringing in the ears, slurred speech, and nausea or vomiting.
In some cases of brain injury, physical symptoms can be delayed for days or even weeks after the initial brain trauma occurs. If any of these symptoms are experienced following a brain injury, seeking medical attention as soon as possible is recommended.
The Risks Of Ignoring Possible TBI Issues
Unlike an external injury to the body, brain injuries cannot be seen and are often difficult to diagnose. As such, it is essential to pay attention to any changes in behavior or physical ability following a brain injury and seek medical help as soon as possible.
If left untreated, brain injuries can lead to long-term disability or even death. Research has shown that CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) is a brain disorder caused by repetitive brain trauma and can lead to permanent brain damage. It is important to seek medical attention after any type of brain injury and follow up with physical therapy as recommended.
Treatment Options for Brain Injury
As the brain is a very complex organ, treatment for brain injuries can vary greatly depending on the severity of brain trauma and other factors. Fortunately, treatment options for brain injuries have improved significantly over the years, including physical therapy, medications, and rehabilitation services. Evidence no longer supports resting in a dark room, turning off screens, or limiting activities that require attention or concentration. Prolonged rest can lead to depression, fatigue, and deconditioning. Early intervention consists of symptom-controlled activity to help calm the hyperactive nervous system and retrain the connections between many of the body’s systems.
Physical therapy is often used to help individuals recover from brain injury. An active, individual approach can identify the causes of symptoms and may include treatment involving:
- The vestibular system, or sensory organs in the inner ear, and their connection to the brain.
- The oculomotor system, including the eyes and muscles throughout the body that stabilize vision while we move in space.
- The muscles of the neck that are/were stressed following whiplash
- Carefully monitored exercise to help improve blood flow abnormalities and promote recovery.
- Education regarding sleep, diet, and return to physical and cognitive activities
Rehabilitation services may be recommended for individuals with brain injuries, particularly if physical or cognitive impairments exist. These services can help individuals learn new skills and strategies to cope with brain injury-related challenges, such as memory loss or impulsive behavior.
Tips for Preventing Brain Injury
Brain injuries are often preventable. To reduce your risk, there are a few tips that you can follow:
1. Wear Proper Safety Equipment
Always wear a helmet when participating in activities that could cause brain trauma, such as bike riding or skateboarding. Additionally, always wear protective gear during contact sports and physical activities.
2. Follow All Safety Regulations
When operating motor vehicles, following all safety regulations is critical to reducing brain injuries from traffic accidents. This includes wearing a seatbelt, driving the speed limit, and avoiding distractions while behind the wheel.
3. Stay Alert
Pay attention to your surroundings and be alert to potential dangers. Awareness of situations that could lead to brain injury can help you stay safe in potentially hazardous environments. Those who visit Summit County to ski should always take extra precautions to be aware of potential obstacles on the mountain.
4. Know What To Do After a Head Injury
If an individual experiences a brain injury, seeking medical attention as soon as possible is crucial. Even mild brain injuries can have serious consequences if left untreated.
Seeking Medical Attention After a Head Injury
If you’ve experienced a brain injury, seeking medical attention as soon as possible is essential. Even if the brain injury is mild, it can still have long-term consequences if left untreated. First, contact emergency medical services if there is any immediate danger or physical trauma. If the brain injury is suspected to be mild, it may still be necessary to see a doctor for further assessment.
For individuals recovering from brain injuries, seeking support from family and friends can also help in the healing process. Family members and friends can provide emotional support during rehabilitation and help with daily tasks, such as grocery shopping and transportation. In addition, organizations like the Brain Injury Association of America offer support for brain injury survivors and their families.
Find Hope With Physical Therapy from Axis
Brain Injury Awareness Month is necessary to raise awareness about brain injuries and their associated risks.
By educating ourselves on brain trauma, we can take steps to prevent brain injuries and support those affected by brain injury. With the right resources and support, brain injury survivors can fully recover and lead healthy, fulfilling lives.
If you or someone you know has experienced a brain injury, seeking medical attention as soon as possible is vital. At Axis, we work with various athletes and brain injury survivors to help them achieve the best possible outcomes from brain injuries.
Contact us today to learn more about our physical therapy services in Summit and Eagle County – and how you can help brain injury survivors achieve their best outcomes.