The World Head Injury Awareness Day falls on March 20th every year and it looks at the number of people who suffer from a mild bump on their head to severe brain injury. The purpose of this day is to remind us on how we could reduce accidents and brain injuries if we are mindful. It advocates the correct usage of safety gadgets such as helmets and seat belts, which can prevent damage to the head when one is involved in accident situations.
Globally every year more than 5% of people get serious brain injury after they get into an accident or as a result of accidentally bumping their head. So this day is set to educate and make the world aware of how a minor injury to the brain can affect the quality of your life.
In South Africa, according to the mid-year estimates of Statistics South Africa (July 2009) the population was 49.3 million and the 2001 census estimated disability prevalence in South Africa to be 5% of the population. An estimate of 89 000 cases of new traumatic brain injuries are reported annually in South Africa.
Causes of head injury
The three most common causes of Head Injury are: Motor Vehicle, Bicycle, Or Vehicle-Pedestrian Accidents (50%), Falls (25%), and Violence (20%).
In a recent study by Colantonio et al. 2009 on traumatic brain injuries in the construction industry, the most common cause of injury was falls, followed by being struck by or against an object. The mechanisms of injury varied and the temporal profile of injury also varied by age. The study also found that a significantly higher proportion of injuries occurred in the mornings for young workers compared to older workers.
Complications of head injuries
Head injury can result in damage to the most important part of the central nervous system, our brain. This can affect one’s health and well being adversely; even a very small case can result in eventual damage if the correct care and treatment is not issued in time.
Head injury can cause problems from loss of memory to severe paralysis and even death. There are a number of victims who are partially or fully paralyzed just because they did not wear their helmet on the day of injury. It is important to note that your skull doesn’t have to be crushed in order for brain damage to occur!
Prevention of head injuries
There are a number of things which we all know can protect our head from injury but forget at times. Fastening helmets and seat belts while driving can help to reduce the cases of brain and head damage to a large extent. Wearing helmets whilst playing sport can also assist in reducing the chances of injury to your brain.
• Always wear a seat belt when in a motor vehicle
• Use an appropriate child safety seat
• Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs
• Always wear a helmet when on a bicycle, motorcycle or scooter
• Use the rails on stairways
• Provide adequate lighting on stair for people with poor vision
• Do not place obstacles on pathways
• Provide the correct safety equipment for workers
Remember that if you spend one more moment being mindful of your surroundings you can avoid having to spend a lifetime living with disability due to head injury.