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Prevent TBIs this summer and beyond

It’s Men’s Health Month! Learn what you can do to protect your brain from injury and stay safe.

During Men’s Health Month, HPRC is taking a closer look at men’s risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI). The good news is there are ways to “protect your head” and prevent TBI while you enjoy your favorite summertime activities.

Each year, more than 1 million people visit the emergency room because of TBIs. And contrary to common belief, most TBIs experienced by Service Members result from motor vehicle accidents, not exposures to blasts. TBI can damage your brain tissue, and it can impair your speech and language skills, balance and motor coordination, and memory. Depending on the severity of your injury, your symptoms might last for days, weeks, or even longer. It’s especially important to prevent head injuries because over 50,000 people die from TBI-related symptoms each year.

TBI risk and men

In general, men take more risks with their health and safety, and it can increase their chances of sustaining TBIs. Your risk for TBI might increase during the summer months, especially if you engage in activities where a bump, blow, or jolt to the head is possible. Men also tend to experience more TBIs than women, and they’re more likely to visit the emergency room, be hospitalized, and die from brain and head injuries.

TBI risk and alcohol use

Summertime can see an increase in social events where heavy drinking might occur. Alcohol use can increase your risk for TBI, and it can impact your recovery and treatment. It impairs your decision-making skills, which could lead to you taking more risks with your health and safety. Combining energy drinks with alcohol also can lead to more binge drinking. Driving while impaired increases your risk for motor vehicle accidents too. In addition, alcohol abuse increases your risk of falls and other accidents that can cause head injuries.

After a TBI, consuming alcohol—especially in large amounts—interferes with brain healing and recovery, and it can lead to longer hospital stays and poorer outcomes at discharge. Excessive alcohol consumption after a TBI can reduce your seizure threshold and interfere with seizure medications. Long-term effects from alcohol abuse include multiple organ damage (including your liver, pancreas, heart, and brain) and possible brain shrinkage. The good news is that substance-abuse treatment and abstinence from alcohol allow time for your brain to heal.

TBI risk and summer activities

Take these steps to prevent TBI while you enjoy summer fun:

During sports,

  • Make sure you wear a bike helmet when biking, skateboarding, and rollerblading.
  • Watch out for fly balls at baseball and softball games. If you’re playing, wear a batting helmet while hitting and be attentive while fielding.

At the pool,

  • Be aware of how deep any pool is before you dive in.
  • Encourage safety and discourage running around wet pool areas to help prevent falls.

While driving,

  • Wear your seatbelt. Insist your passengers wear seat belts too.
  • Always wear a motorcycle helmet when operating a motorcycle or other motorized vehicles.

Debrief

Men are at increased risk for TBI year-round, and consuming alcohol while engaging in summer activities could further increase your risk. Be smart and safe about keeping your head and brain injury-free this summer. Visit A Head for the Future’s webpage to learn how to prevent, recognize, and recover from TBI too.

Posted 15 June 2017