Traumatic brain injury [TBI] is something that we hear of periodically in the news, as in the case of Tracy Morgan’s car crash that resulted in his traumatic brain injury. We hear of it when football players suffer terrible concussions, or when other athletes, such as cheerleaders, sustain devastating falls. However, it is not something that we think can happen to us and our perception of what a TBI is, can be very far from the truth.
Traumatic brain injury is defined as: an alteration in brain function…caused by an external force.
It is extremely important to understand that every brain is different and therefore every traumatic brain different. In order to be an ally you can’t assume you can tell by sight or symptom, whether someone has sustained TBI or to what extent they may be experiencing it.
Traumatic brain injuries can occur due to motor vehicle accidents, sports, or recreational injuries, domestic violence, falls and other external forces.
Approximately 5.3 million plus adults and children in the U.S. are living with some sort of permanent brain injury related disability. Many of these injuries are the result of stroke, infections, disease and brain tumors, but those numbers also include mild traumatic brain [MTBI] injuries or what we typically know as concussions.
A concussion is a brain injury caused by a blow to the head or a violent shaking of the head and body. This occurs from a mild blow to the head, either with or without loss of consciousness and can lead to temporary cognitive symptoms. Yet there may be symptoms which aren’t obvious and go undetected or may not appear to be related to a head injury.
- Sleep difficulties or irregularities
- Slower than normal reaction time
Older adults are at higher risk for concussions. It is important to encourage preventive measures.
The Dept. of Defense issued guidelines of key ways to recognize a concussion in order to get immediate help and treatment. These are:
- H- headaches or vomiting.
- E- ears ringing.
- A- amnesia, altered consciousness or loss of consciousness.
- D- double vision and/or dizziness.
- S- something is wrong or not quite right.
4 in 5 TBI related ER visits are older adults 65years and older. It is highest among persons 75 years and older. You can assist your loved one who may be at risk in the following ways:
- Removing home hazards like throw rugs or (at minimum) securing them to the ground firmly.
- Lighting up living spaces to avoid tripping.
- Employing assisted living devices like (handrails, grab bars and raised toilet seats).
- Regularly reviewing meds with doctors.
- Staying as active as possible.
- Wearing sensible shoes.
Non-Traumatic Brain Injury
This begins internally due to disease, poisoning, a hereditary condition, lack of oxygen, stroke or other internal medical issues.
Reducing Screen-time Post-Concussion
There is evidence that reducing screen time helps reduce recovery time. Avoiding screen time in the first 48 hours of acute-concussion recovery may greatly reduce the duration of concussion symptoms to allow for important cognitive brain rest following concussion.
It is thought that the rapid eye movement involved with watching continually refreshing LED screen pixilation can cause eye muscle strain for someone who has just suffered TBI. Also, back-lighting from most screens and the loud noises from some electronic devices may also cause other negative symptoms in post-concussive patients.
False Facts Concerning Traumatic Brain Injury
You can always see brain injury on CT or MRI scans.
False: CT & MRI are looking for bleeding in the brain, skull fractures and other acute trauma. Not all brain injuries -like concussions- will appear on these scans. A clear CT or MRI does not eliminate the possibility of brain injury.
Two years after a brain injury no more recovery can be made.
False: After the first 9 months of recovery, time is no longer an indicator of recovery; what is the most important after this is finding proper therapies for your symptoms. Doing the right activities 50 years post injury has the same chance of recovery as receiving proper treatment 9 months out. Improvement is always possible!
Concussions are NOT serious.
False: Concussion is a form of mild traumatic brain injury. If you are experiencing any symptoms of concussion, it should never be considered trivial, minor, or “part of the game.” They are signs of brain injury and “mild,” is only a reference to the fact that they are not usually life threatening. But it does not mean it’s not serious and while many people will fully recover two weeks post-concussion, a percentage of patients will have lifelong symptoms afterward.
Individuals with brain injury don’t think about suicide.
False: Sadly, it is not an uncommon occurrence for patience to experience after a traumatic brain injury. Nearly 1 in 5 brain injury survivors admit to suicidal ideation, plans or attempts in the 5-year period after injury. If you need help please call the Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Only athletes get concussions.
False: TBI is a common result of motor vehicle accidents, falls (particularly with elderly and children), military action or blast exposure, intimate partner violence, abuse, gunshot wounds and other physical trauma.