A traumatic brain injury is caused by a bump or blow to your head or body that causes your brain to shake inside your skull causing damage.
According to ACC, about 36,000 people in New Zealand experience a traumatic brain injury every year with many of those people experiencing ongoing medical problems for the rest of their lives.
Common causes of traumatic brain injuries are falls, sports injuries, assaults and car accidents. Traumatic brain injury can result in prolonged or permanent changes, and recovery time varies from person to person. So taking steps to reduce the risk is key.
Here are our top tips to reduce the risk of a traumatic brain injury:
Always wear your seatbelt
Wearing a seat belt significantly reduces the chance of brain injury or death. Make sure babies and children are safely strapped into age-appropriate car seats. Also, don’t speed, text or drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs as these things all increase your chances of having an accident.
Wear a helmet
If you’re taking part in certain sports or recreational activities, it’s crucial to wear a helmet that fits correctly. For example, if you’re skiing, snowboarding, cycling, scootering, motorbiking, rock climbing, horse riding, skateboarding or doing any other similar sport or activity, a helmet can protect your brain from injury. Headgear is also recommended for sports such as wrestling, boxing and rugby.
Falls around the home are a major cause of head injuries, especially among older people. The risk of a fall can be reduced by installing handrails in bathrooms and stairways, removing tripping hazards on the floor such as rugs and using non-slip mats in the shower and bath.
Make sure your child always wears a helmet when taking part in sport or recreational activities, and don’t let them play on concrete or hard surface playgrounds. For younger children, make sure you use child safety gates near stairs and window guards to prevent them from falling out of windows. And remember, never shake your baby.
Check before you dive
Always check the depth before you dive or jump into a body of water, whether it’s a pool, river, lake or the ocean.
When you’re out walking, stay on the footpath, use a zebra crossing and always obey the traffic signal before crossing the road. This helps reduce the risk of being hit by a car or cyclist.
If you or someone you know experiences a head injury, seek medical advice immediately. If the person is unconscious, call 111. But remember, a concussion can occur without loss of consciousness – learn the signs and what to do.