Lisa Lange, MPT is a Certified Brain Specialist
Lisa Lange, MPT, Certified Brain Specialist at Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation, sees how lives can be changed in just a moment’s time due to a fall or a freak accident. Here, she discusses the basics of brain injuries and how to prevent them.
How prevalent are brain injuries?
Brain injuries don’t discriminate. From a soccer mom to a business executive to a young athlete, someone in the United States sustains a brain injury every 9 seconds.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 2.8 million people sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBI) each year and there are currently 5.3 million people living with a TBI-related disability. By 2020, the World Health Organization predicts that TBI and road traffic accidents will be the 3rd leading cause of disease and injury worldwide.
There is also a group of brain injury survivors known as the “walking wounded” because their impairments may not seem obvious; however, they might be suffering in silence and be very different after the injury. They might have difficulties that were not apparent prior to the event, for instance, staying in school, forming relationships or holding a job.
Are there different types of brain injuries?
There are two types of acquired brain injuries (occurring after birth): non-traumatic brain injury and TBI. Non-traumatic injuries are caused by an alteration in brain function caused by an internal force. Examples include tumors, stroke, drug overdose and lack of oxygen to the brain. Traumatic brain injury is caused by external forces such as falls, assaults, motor vehicle accidents and sports injuries.
Can all brain injuries be treated the same?
Like snowflakes, no two brain injuries are alike. A brain injury affects each person differently due to an individual’s age at onset, general overall health, brain health, genetics and more. In addition, it also depends on the type and severity of brain injury and the secondary problems that may occur (for example, brain swelling).
All treatment plans must be individualized – there is no recipe or script to follow when caring for this population. Brain injuries not only affect a person physically but behaviorally and cognitively. Care plans must be multidimensional to meet all the needs of the patient.
Why is it important to protect your brain?
Your brain is your most valuable asset! It controls everything you do. It makes each of us, unique. Suffering a brain injury is not like breaking a bone, because in general, bones heal. The brain does not always recover completely.
Mild brain injury symptoms may include: headaches, excessive fatigue, visual impairments (blurry/double), tinnitus (ringing in the ear), irritability, dizziness, memory loss, sleep disturbances, and sensitivity to light and sound. Moderate TBI results in a loss of consciousness and severe injuries involve coma. The extent of the injury will determine just what symptoms will manifest. Research indicates that severe TBI can increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease.
How can you prevent brain injuries?
You can’t have the “whistling past the graveyard” or “it’s not going to happen to me” mentalities. As a Certified Brain Specialist, I recommend using properly fitting safety equipment such as wearing helmets when playing football, skiing, snowboard or riding a bike and wearing seat belts in the car. Fall prevention is of utmost importance as falls are currently the leading cause of traumatic brain injury in the United States. They occur at both ends of the age spectrum affecting both young children and older adults.
My hope is that by continuing to raise awareness about the danger of brain injuries, we can prevent one person from being wheeled into our gym for therapy and save another family from the anguish of navigating the tumultuous sea of recovery.