You may have heard these sayings growing up: “wear a helmet,” “look both ways before you cross the street” and “fasten your seat belt.” You likely heard it from someone who cared about your safety and well-being. Following these instructions can reduce your chances of being seriously injured in an accident. When it comes to preventing traumatic brain injury (TBI), the same safety measures apply whether you’re in uniform or not. The majority of TBIs in the military actually happen off the battlefield when someone is involved in a motor vehicle crash or gets injured during a sporting or recreational event.
The most prevalent type of brain injury affecting service members and civilians is mild TBI, also known as concussion. Some common symptoms include: headaches or neck pain that won’t go away; difficulty remembering, concentrating or making decisions; dizziness or loss of balance; blurred vision or eyes that tire easily; and ringing in the ears. Although not life threatening, these symptoms can interfere with one’s normal routine, making once easy tasks harder to perform. Most people completely recover from a concussion, unlike moderate or severe TBI where long-term or life-long care is often necessary.
So what are some tips to help you and your loved ones reduce the chance of sustaining a brain injury?
- Always wear a helmet or other appropriate head gear when doing any activity where you might fall and hit your head. For example: riding a bike, motorcycle, snow mobile; engaging in contact sports like football, ice hockey, boxing, skiing, snowboarding, horseback riding, etc.
- Wear a seat belt when you drive or ride in a motor vehicle
- Never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Avoid texting or engaging in other distractions while driving
- When driving (or biking) with kids, always buckle your child into a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt according to their height, weight, age and state laws
- Avoid falls in the home by: using a step stool to reach objects on high shelves; installing handrails on stairways; installing window guards; using safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs; and removing tripping hazards
- Maintain a regular exercise program to improve strength, balance and coordination
- Receive annual eye exams to help you see better and lower the risk of falling
- Keep firearms stored unloaded in a locked cabinet or safe, and store bullets in a separate, secure location
- For deployed service members, see prevention methods specifically useful in a combat setting
In many cases, TBI can be prevented by taking simple precautions and encouraging others to do the same. Throughout March, increase your understanding of brain injuries and how to prevent them. Share relevant resources from the DCoE Brain Injury Awareness month page with your family and friends.