March 22 is Brain Injury Awareness Day. We spoke with our expert, Dr. Margo Lauterbach, director of The Concussion Clinic, part of The Neuropsychiatry Program at Sheppard Pratt, to learn about some of the ways you can work to prevent brain injury. Here’s what Dr. Lauterbach had to say:
How to Prevent Brain Injury in Children:
- Ensure your child always wears a helmet. Fortunately, helmets are available for most contact and high-risk sports, including football, hockey, horseback riding, biking, and skiing. Even if the sport your child is playing doesn’t have a specific helmet, it’s always safest to use a basic helmet if there’s the potential for your child to fall or get knocked around. Before engaging in play, make sure you know what type of protection your helmet should provide, and give your helmet a check. The CDC has tips for fit and functionality for different types of helmets.
- Play safe on the playground. Before allowing your child free rein on the monkey bars and on the slide, take stock of which structures and toys on the playground are appropriate for their age and size. Only allow your child to play on a playground that has a soft material on the ground for them to land on, such as mulch or sand.
- Child-proof your home. As kids get older, they move faster (and give less thought to the potential consequences of moving fast!). Make sure that any stairs have railings to promote better balance, consider installing stair gates at the top and bottom of the steps to prevent a fall, and lower the crib mattress when your small child is starting to sit and pull up in the crib.
- Make car rides as safe as possible. Before taking your child for a ride in the car, make sure you have properly installed an appropriately-sized car or booster seat. Then, buckle up for every trip, no matter how short.
How to Prevent Brain Injury in Teens and Adults:
- Always fasten your seatbelt. Whether you’re behind the steering wheel or a passenger in a car, make sure you always use a seatbelt. Using a seatbelt is the most effective way to reduce injuries, including brain injuries, in the event of a car crash.
- Put the phone down. One of the easiest ways to prevent accidents when you’re behind the wheel, and to prevent falls when you’re walking, is to put your cell phone down. Checking a text message or your social media feed can wait.
- When it comes to sports, enforce the rules. In most contact sports, helmets are mandatory. Act as a watchdog for the team, and ensure that everyone complies with the helmet rule. Also make sure to keep an eye on excessive use of force or illegal contact throughout the game.
- Take it slow when trying something new. It can be tempting to zoom down the slopes as fast as possible when strapping on a pair of skis. But, it’s more important to take it slow and get your bearings first to reduce the risk of a fall.
While these ideas for preventing concussions aren’t exhaustive, they’re a good start for keeping your brain safe. And, if you do sustain a head injury, get help ASAP. The sooner a concussion or head injury is diagnosed, the better the chances of recovery. Take the time you need to rest and recover, and ease back into everyday activity when directed to do so.
Stay tuned for more brain injury prevention tips coming soon.