March is Brain Injury Awareness Month

Know the signs of brain injury and when to seek medical attention

John Norbury, MD

March is Brain Injury awareness month, and with the recent death of actor/comedian Bob Saget due to a brain injury from a fall, many people are asking question about what to do you if you hit your head.

The simple answer is, “It depends.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 166 Traumatic Brain Injury-related deaths every day. While anyone can experience an injury to the brain, some groups in West Texas are at greater risk such as veterans, people living in rural areas, and racial and ethnic minorities. Children under four, teenagers, and older adults are also at higher risk.

Falls lead to nearly half of all brain injury related hospitalizations. Firearm-related suicide is the most common cause of brain injury related death in the United States and car accidents and assaults are other common ways a person may get a brain injury.

If someone hits their head, it’s important to determine if the injury is severe enough to warrant medical attention. The vast majority of the 1.5 million brain injuries in the United States are mild and do not require hospitalization, but some signs that indicate someone has a serious brain injury that requires medical attention include:

  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty with balance/walking
  • Changes in speech
  • Blurry vision
  • Headaches

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should reach out to a health care provider or go to the emergency room. It is especially important that people on blood thinners err on the side of caution and seek medical attention if there is any concern for brain injury after a fall.  

If you hit your head, and you are alone, it’s important that you call a friend and let them know.  Sometimes brain injuries are more apparent to friends or loved ones than they are to the person who sustained the brain injury.

In general, it is safe to go to sleep an hour after you hit your head as long as you don’t have the symptoms above. If there is any concern about whether or not it is safe to go to sleep, it would be better to seek medical attention.

After you or a loved one has sustained a brain injury, the best way to achieve a good outcome is to participate in a comprehensive rehabilitation program. This can be done on an inpatient or an outpatient basis (depending on how severe the injury is) and can include treatment with medications, therapy to improve walking, ability to care for oneself and speak and training focused on helping one to return to their daily life.

As with any other medical condition, the best way to prevent brain injuries is prevention which can include:

  • Wear a helmet when riding a bicycle or motorcycle
  • Use age-appropriate car seats for children
  • If you own a firearm, practice gun safety
  • If you or a loved one is struggling with falls, a course of physical therapy focusing on improving walking can help to prevent brain injuries.

Unfortunately, brain injuries are a fact of life. Nobody is immune even if they take precautions, but the good news is that prevention, and some common-sense measures can protect you and the ones you love.

John Norbury M.D., is a physiatrist (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician) and associate professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. He also is the medical director of the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program at Trustpoint Rehabilitation Hospital of Lubbock.

Related Stories

Health

TTUHSC Receives CPRIT Grant to Begin New Outreach Effort

CPRIT recently awarded a $1 million prevention grant to Rakhshanda Rahman, M.D., Rebeccah Baucom, M.D., and John Kidwell, M.D., from the TTUHSC School of Medicine.

Health

Alzheimer's Awareness and Prevention

Becky Mahan, PharmD, BCACP, FASCP, realized her passion for geriatrics while helping care for her grandmother. Since then, it has grown into a career. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s will take place on October 8 in Abilene.

Health

Using Sound-Level Meter Apps to Prevent Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss affects almost 24 percent of adults and 12 to 15 percent of school-aged children in the United States. Leigh Ann Reel, Au.D., Ph.D., CCC-A, spoke about using apps to prevent such loss.

Recent Stories

Health

TTUHSC Receives CPRIT Grant to Begin New Outreach Effort

CPRIT recently awarded a $1 million prevention grant to Rakhshanda Rahman, M.D., Rebeccah Baucom, M.D., and John Kidwell, M.D., from the TTUHSC School of Medicine.

Research

Startups Begin Here! Four Startups Awarded $50,000 from TTUHSC President

The Innovation Hub at Research Park today (September 26, 2022) announced the winners of its annual Presidents' Innovative Startup Awards. The award recognizes startups that have a high potential for growth and an economic impact in West Texas.

Education

Fifth Graders Become Doctors for a Day

Fifth graders from Bean Elementary School became doctors for a day. The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) Student National Medical Association (SNMA) hosted the Doctors for a Day Minicamp on Sept. 23.