March is Brain Injury Awareness Month


By Dr. Thomas Wright

Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital Rehabilitation Medical Director

Brain injury affects millions of persons in the U.S. annually, sometimes with tragic results. The lives of those suffering from brain injury as well as their loved ones can be changed forever, sometimes in an instant. Fortunately, much can be done to prevent brain injury and to treat and rehabilitate those affected by it. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is the most common form of brain injury.

A TBI is an injury that disrupts how the brain works. TBIs result from a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or a penetration of the skull by a foreign object such as a knife or bullet. The most common causes of TBI are falls, motor vehicle crashes, sports, firearm injuries, blast (explosion) injuries, abusive head trauma and being hit in the head by an object. A concussion is a mild type of TBI.

The persons most likely to have a TBI are the young, the old and males of all ages. There are many ways to prevent TBI.

Wear a seat belt whenever you ride or drive a motor vehicle, fasten your child in a properly designed and fitted safety seat, booster seat or seat belt depending on their age and size, never operate any motorized device under the influence of alcohol, medications or drugs, wear a helmet and insure that your children wear theirs when engaged in any recreational activities with a risk of collision or fall, do not return to play after even a mild concussion until evaluated and cleared to participate by a health care professional, maintain a well-lit, barrier free home environment for the elderly with bathroom safety features like grab bars and bath benches when appropriate and use safety latches on windows and stairway guards when caring for infants and young children.

If you or a loved one experience a head injury, seek medical evaluation right away if any of the following symptoms are present:

  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Difficulty remembering
  • Difficulty following conversation or directions
  • Answers questions more slowly or repeatedly
  • Dazed or stunned
  • Numbness or tingling