Health professionals focus on brain injury awareness

By Bavaria Health Command Public Affairs

Symptoms associated with a brain injury are nothing to shrug off according to medical experts.

Each year approximately 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury. “The brain is complex with several receptors and transmitters,” said Robert M. Lucania, Director of the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Program for Bavaria Health Command. “If the head is hit, jolted or subject to a surge of energy like a blast, these receptors and transmitters can be damaged, resulting in a temporary disruption in the way the brain works.”

Classifications of Traumatic Brain Injury are mild, moderate and severe. The majority of traumatic brain injuries are mild, commonly known as a concussion, he said. Not every person who sustains a head injury might be aware of the injury, but symptoms can emerge days, weeks or months later. Using the acronym H.E.A.D.S. helps identify the symptoms of a concussion.  H.E.A.D.S. stands for headaches or vomiting, ringing in the ears, Amnesia or alteration of consciousness, dizziness or double vision and just feeling something is not right.

Fatigue, irritability problems with sleeping and concentration are other symptoms associated with a concussion, Lucania said. Symptoms can also compile to make coping with a head injury more difficult. Sleep disturbance could lead to irritability, which could lead to difficulties concentrating.

“You can see how these symptoms can impact an individual’s work, study skills and interpersonal relationships,” he said. “It’s important to realize not everyone will have the same symptoms and people recover at different rates.

Symptoms of a concussion usually begin to subside in a few hours or days and 90 percent of people who sustain a concussion recover in about 90 days, but some people may require longer treatment; however, the good news is the prognosis is positive, Lucania said. People who sustain a concussion should see their doctor and reduce their mental and physical exertion to allow the brain time to heal. Avoiding stimulates like smoking, alcohol and caffeine are also recommended, he said.

“We don’t want people to be inactive all day, just wind down and their doctor will let them know when to start gradual activities,” Lucania said.

He also recommends staying away from contact sports and other activities that could jolt or hit the head, which can result in another concussion making recovery more difficult.

While Lucania and the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury program in clinics throughout Bavaria focus on diagnosis and recovery of brain injuries, prevention is the best solution.

“Prevention is always key,” he said. “Wear the proper equipment when engaging in sports, know the safety rules; wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, motorcycle, skateboarding, etc., wear your seatbelt, make sure your home and work place are free if slip hazards and see a doctor if you sustain a head injury and show symptoms or when in doubt.”