March is Brain Injury Awareness Month

Preventing Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a type of brain injury that can be caused by a strong blow to the head (closed injury) or by an object that penetrates the skull and enters the brain (open injury). TBI can change the way your brain functions and can range from mild to severe. A mild TBI may cause only temporary changes. A concussion is the most common example of a mild TBI. A more severe TBI may cause permanent brain damage, coma, or even death.
You can get a TBI from any activity that results in head injury, including falls, motor vehicle accidents, sports, or physical abuse.

How Can A TBI Affect Me?

If you do not take action to protect yourself from a fall or head injury, you can damage your brain temporarily or permanently. Even a mild TBI can cause changes in your mental status and consciousness. A severe TBI or repeated mild TBIs can cause long-term disability or death.

What Actions Can I Take To Lower My Risk Of A TBI?

To prevent falls
• Be careful when walking on slippery or icy surfaces and when climbing stairs.
• Repair cracks and remove clutter from walkways, driveways, and doorways at home.
• Remove leaves, snow, and ice from walkways regularly.
• Make sure walkways, bedrooms, bathrooms, and stairways are well-lit.
• Use nonslip mats in bathrooms and showers.
• Install grab bars and handrails in stairways and bathrooms.
• When you use a stepladder, make sure that it is completely opened and that the sides are firmly locked. Have someone hold the ladder while you are using it. Do not climb a closed stepladder.
• Review your medicines with your health care provider. Some medicines can cause dizziness or changes in blood pressure, which increase your risk of falling.

To prevent sports injuries
• Wear a helmet and other protective equipment when participating in sports. Use a helmet approved by the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM). This is especially important for sports that have a higher risk of TBI than others, such as:

• Football, rugby, ice hockey, and lacrosse.
• Baseball and softball.
• Bike riding.
• Horseback riding.

• Always wear a helmet for other high-risk activities, such as:

• Driving or riding motor-powered recreational vehicles, including motorcycles, motor scooters, ATVs, and go-karts.
• Winter sports, such as skiing, sledding, snowboarding, and snowmobiling.
• Water sports, such as water polo, water skiing, and water tubing.
• In-line skating, roller skating, and skateboarding.

• Never participate in sports when you are sick or tired.
• If you are playing a sport or doing any activity and you hit your head, tell your coach or another person immediately. Do not return to practice or play until you get permission from a health care provider.

To prevent motor vehicle injuries

• Wear your seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle.
Do not drive after drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or taking a medicine that makes you sleepy. Never ride in a motor vehicle driven by someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Do not drive when you are sleepy or very tired.
Do not use a cell phone or other digital device while driving. Do not text while driving.
• Obey speed limits and other traffic laws at all times. Do not speed.
• Pay close attention to road conditions. Slow down when there is rain, snow, or ice.

To prevent other injuries

• Before using or owning a firearm, take a safety class to learn about safe use and storage.
• Keep firearms unloaded and locked in a safe place. Lock ammunition in a separate place.
• Never dive into water without knowing the depth. Never dive into water that is less than 12 feet (4 meters) deep.
• Always use caution when crossing the street. Use crosswalks and sidewalks when available. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing the traffic. When walking or cycling at dusk or night, wear bright or reflective clothing.
• If you do not feel safe in your home, contact the police or a local shelter to find a temporary place to stay. Call 911 if you are in immediate danger or need medical help.

Where To Find More Information

For more information about preventing TBI, see:

• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
• U.S. National Institutes of Health:

Contact A Health Care Provider If:

• You have any of the following after a head injury:

• Headache.
• Dizziness.
• Memory problems or trouble concentrating.
• Fatigue or changes in sleep.
• Mood or personality changes, including depression, anxiety, or anger.
• Blurred vision or sensitivity to light.
• Nausea, vomiting, or both.

Get Help Right Away If:

• You have any of the following after a head injury:

• Headache that gets worse.
• Nausea or vomiting that gets worse.
• Slurred speech.
• Loss of consciousness.
• Weakness, numbness, or loss of coordination.
• Confusion.
• Being unable to control emotions or actions.
• Seizures.


• Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is a type of brain injury that results from an injury to your head. It can change the way your brain works.
• TBI may be prevented by taking steps to prevent motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, falls, and other accidents.
• To protect yourself, drive safely on the road, and wear protective head gear when playing sports or doing risky activities.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

Document Released: 02/04/2019 Document Revised: 02/04/2019 Document Reviewed: 02/04/2019
Elsevier Interactive Patient Education © 2020 Elsevier Inc.

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