Did you know that falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury in the United States? In this episode of Brain Injury Insider, host Michael V. Kaplen discusses measures which should be taken to reduce risks of traumatic brain injuries caused by falls.
Did you know that falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury in the United States?
A traumatic brain injury can happen to anyone, anywhere, and any place.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the CDC, falls were reported to be the leading cause of TBI.
Falls accounted for almost half, forty eight percent, of all TBI related emergency department visits. And falls disproportionately affect children and older adults.
Almost half, forty nine percent of TBI related emergency department visits among children up to the age of 17 were caused by falls, and falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury in infants under the age of two years.
Four in five, eighty one percent of TBI related emergency visits in older adults aged sixty five years and older were caused by falls. And among all age groups, falls are the second leading cause of traumatic brain injury related deaths.
When we think of falls in younger children, rarely do we consider that a bump on the head may be serious, or that our child may have sustained a concussion.
In older adults, when we think of falls we think of a fraction hip or other type of orthopedic injury. But again, we rarely consider that the fall, which caused a broken bone, may also have caused a concussion or other type of brain injury.
In our legal practice, we have seen falls from a standing position when the head hits the ground to cause all types of brain injury, from concussions, to skull fractures, to internal bleeding, swelling, and tragically even death.
We have seen these injuries occur when struck by a motor vehicle, when slipping on an unsafe walkway, or in hospitals, when proper supervision wasn’t provided to a patient.
When a fall does take place, the individual should be examined for the signs and symptoms of a concussion. In some cases, medical personnel should perform a CAT scan or an MRI study to rule out swelling within the brain, or bleeding within the brain.
But remember, a CAT scan or an MRI study often cannot detect the microscopic brain damage that takes place in a concussion.
Often a concussion, or other type of brain injury, is not apparent until the individual attempts to return to their day to day function.
For the elderly, it may mean they are no longer able to live alone or care for themselves.
And children returning to the classroom when the child encounters difficulties with learning, this may indicate that a concussion has taken place.
But most falls are preventable if proper precautions are taken.
In hospitals and nursing homes, patients and residents must be provided proper fall protection.
A prior history of falling, confusion, ambulatory difficulties, should all be signs that the patient or the resident require special precautions because they are at risk of falling.
Precautions such as one to one supervision, one to one assistance, perhaps lowering the bed. The placement of mats or other device next to the bed. Use of bedrails and, of course, proper supervision after that call light, or call bell is activated are all important to prevent falls from taking place.
Beds are now equipped with alerts to notify nursing staff that a patient is is attempting to get out of a bed without assistance.
And video cameras can be placed for observation.
Of course, in both instances, the staff must activate these devices.
We have unfortunately seen many cases where proper care was not followed in these institutions leading to falls and traumatic brain injury.
In children falls can be prevented with proper supervision, placement of guarding devices around windows and stairs. Children should not be left unattended in highchairs or other elevated surfaces. And while riding a bicycle, skateboard, or engaged in other sporting activities, helmets should always be used.
For adults, especially senior citizens, a home safety check should be conducted to identify and remove fall risk.
Landlords, hotel keepers, and others must also perform these safety checks to prevent needless falls from happening.
In the home, proper lighting must be provided. Tripping objects on floors, such as papers, books, shoes, and clothing should be removed. Small throw rugs should be removed. And any rug should have double sided tape applied to prevent the rug from slipping.
In bathrooms, grab bars should be installed adjacent to toilets and within bathtubs and showers. Non-slip bathmats must be placed in bathtubs and showers, and consideration should also be made
to alter the configuration of bathrooms, to remove the necessity of stepping over the bathtub wall to enter the shower.
Stairs must have proper handrails and proper lighting.
These easy steps and proper precautions will help reduce the incidence of falls and prevent needless brain injury from happening.
But remember, the best cure for traumatic brain injury is prevention.