My boxing gloves were laced perfectly, my headgear correctly adjusted and my mouthpiece properly inserted, but nothing helped me anticipate the quick jab to my face. I was a 47-year-old police recruit; my opponent was 21 and pure muscle. Needless to say, I saw stars for a moment and reeled a bit, but I quickly punched back, much to the surprise of a training officer, and finished the round. (No outward signs of a concussion or other injury. I am certain I would have won a best-of-three round bout.)
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and should not be lost in the current and nonstop media coverage of the coronavirus. Most folks know about traumatic brain injury, but may not realize traumatic brain injury is a major cause of disability and death in America.
A collision, blow or knock to the head that disrupts the normal function of a brain can cause a traumatic brain injury. However, and fortunately for me, not all contacts to the head result in a traumatic brain injury. A concussion is the mildest and most common traumatic brain injury. A loss of consciousness and memory loss are the results of a severe traumatic brain injury.
There were over 400,000 traumatic brain injuries suffered by members of the Armed Forces from 2000 until 2019, according to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Most of those were rated as mild.
There were almost 3 million emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths in 2014 (the latest year of available statistics) related to traumatic brain injury. Almost a third of these occurrences were in children. Folks age 75 and older accounted for most of the hospitalizations.
More than 150 people die from a traumatic brain injury-related injury each day. Furthermore, traumatic brain injury was a contributing factor in almost 57,000 deaths; over 2,500 were children.
Falls are the most common traumatic brain injury factor for people older than 65 and juveniles.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury-related death for young people, 15-34, and for folks over 75 years of age.
Common sense seems to be in short supply these days, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers several suggestions to reduce or prevent traumatic brain injury.
High on their list is a favorite of mine: Wear your seat belts. Regardless if driving or riding, make it click. If you’re the driver, you have a moral and a financial obligation to ensure all passengers buckle their seat belts.
Make sure your children have the appropriate headgear for all sports, especially contact sports, horseback riding and skateboarding. The young people may feel it looks dorky or uncool to wear a helmet, but parents and guardians are charged with protecting their children, not helping them look cool in front of their peers.
A previous column of mine implored older men, those of Social Security benefit age, to stay off of ladders and other high places. Falls are the leading cause of death and injury after age 65, and the traumatic brain injury statistics reinforce my plea.
Seasoned citizens should ensure their medications and eyeglass prescriptions are up to date. If you have trouble maintaining balance or suffer from medicinal side effects, please discuss this with your physician.
For more than 30 years, the Brain Injury Association of America has been conducting a public awareness campaign each March. Their theme since 2018 is “Change Your Mind” and is a platform for brain injury public education and raising awareness for brain injury victims and their families. The BIAA website, https://wwwbiausa.org, provides several gateways for information and assistance.
Finally, as good citizens we should support and assist each other. The families of traumatic brain injury patients need our understanding and support.
Dan Jennings is a retired Army captain and a retired BCPD lieutenant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.