Preventing brain injuries in all ages

By Lisa Marinelli Smith
NeuLine Health

Brain injury risks change as we age, from babies who can tumble off a couch, to teens playing contact sports and seniors who lose their balance and trip on a throw rug. 

Some risks are out of our control. But others, such as wearing seatbelts when we drive and helmets when we bike, are up to us to manage safely. 

A traumatic brain injury is caused by a blow or forceful jolt to the head or body or a penetrating injury to the head. TBIs affect millions in the U.S. each year. Mild cases, known as mTBI, may result in a brief change in mental state or consciousness. Concussions, which occur when a collision causes the brain to shake within the skull, are a type of mTBI. 

Severe brain injuries can cause periods of unconsciousness, coma or even death.

Traumatic brain injuries are the leading cause of disability and death in children from 0–4 years and adolescents ages 15–19 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The elderly are also susceptible to brain injuries because of their higher risk of tripping or falling. A CDC report found a 17 percent increase in the rate of fall-related traumatic brain injury deaths between 2008–2017. The largest increase in fall-related TBI deaths occurred among people over 75 years.

So what steps can we take to keep our brains safe? Here are some ideas:

Pick the right helmet for the right activity

Wearing helmets is a sure way to reduce the risk of brain injuries. According to the Federal Highway Administration, bicycle helmets are 85-88 percent effective in reducing head and brain injuries. 

Helmets are specifically designed for different sports or activities to best protect your head from impact. A bike helmet isn’t built the same as a batting helmet. Bike helmets are also built differently than skateboard helmets. 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission provides a list of activities and the helmets they’ve certified for each category. You can also find a helpful helmet fact sheet on different types of helmets from the CDC.

Buckle up

Please wear a seatbelt! Also, be sure your kids are in the correct car safety seat. 

Buckle your child in the car using a child safety seat, booster seat or seat belt, based on the child’s height, weight and age. When kids outgrow their car seats, usually when they weigh 40 pounds, they should transition to a booster seat until the lap/shoulder belts in the car fit properly, typically when they are 4’9″ tall.

Baby proof

Keeping your baby, toddler and child safe is a full-time job. Here are some tips from the CDC to prevent brain injuries: 

  • Install window guards to keep children from falling out of open windows.
  • Use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs to keep young children safe.
  • Make sure your child’s playground has soft material under it, such as hardwood mulch or sand.

Senior fall safety

Sight, balance and proper footwear all play a role in avoiding falls. 

  • Schedule an eye exam at least once a year and replace glasses as needed.
  • Foot exams can catch foot health issues, and proper footwear can also help people avoid falls and trips.  
  • Keep moving and try activities that help you improve balance, such as tai chi. Practicing yoga when younger can also reduce fall risks when you get older. 

Home safety also is paramount. The CDC suggests: 

  • Adding grab bars in the bathroom by the tub and toilet
  • Installing handrails and lights on staircases
  • Keeping floors clutter-free
  • Making sure the home has lots of light
  • Removing small throw rugs or using double-sided tape to keep the rugs from moving

EEGs and Brain injuries

EEGs (electroencephalographs) are useful tools for doctors to get more information about a brain injury. The noninvasive test measures electrical activity in the brain to examine brain health and diagnose certain physical and psychological conditions. 

According to one study, an EEG is more effective than a neurological exam in determining if a patient has suffered a brain injury. After mild TBI, 86 percent of patients with an abnormal neurological examination also had an abnormal EEG. On the other hand, only 23 percent of abnormal EEGs were accompanied by an abnormal neurological examination. In those cases, the physical neuro exam didn’t indicate a brain injury, but the EEG did. 
NeuLine Health offers at-home ambulatory EEGs for patients. For more information, call NeuLine Health at (844) 212-5321 or visit our website.

Resources:

    “Punch-drunk syndrome” and the history of contact sports and brain damage

    “Punch-drunk syndrome” and the history of contact sports and brain damage

    Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, was previously known as dementia pugilistica or “punch-drunk syndrome” for its association with former boxers demonstrating declining ability, memory loss, and lack of coordination. The hallmark risk factor that separates the syndrome from other tauopathies and dementias is repeated trauma to the head, otherwise known as traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs. It’s this repeated trauma where things become an issue for contact sports.

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    The History of EEGs

    The History of EEGs

    The field of electroencephalography began with the discovery of recordable electrical potentials from animals in the late 19th century, and in the 1920s, a neuropsychiatrist from Germany, Dr. Hans Berger, recorded the first potentials from human patients and created the procedure we know as the EEG.

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    The Vagus Nerve: An explainer of the tenth cranial nerve and its clinical implications

    The Vagus Nerve: An explainer of the tenth cranial nerve and its clinical implications

    Vagus nerve stimulation is a treatment that has been occasionally used to treat epilepsy, treatment-resistant depression, and even Alzheimer’s dementia. Are you familiar with this unusual treatment? Are you familiar with the vagus nerve? Though it’s not commonly known, it’s a critical part of your nervous system and has many potential clinical implications. Let’s chat about the vagus nerve and vagus nerve stimulation, but first, some background and context.

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