Prevention Is For All Seasons

In the not so distant past, those of us in the brain injury community used to hear “prevention is the only cure.” What we have learned about the brain and recovery in recent years has been nothing short of astonishing. Advanced imaging techniques, stem cell research, new therapies and treatments, have given us so much hope in preventing and minimizing injury as well as promoting recovery from brain injury. Still, learning how to prevent or minimize injury to the brain is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves and those we love. Most of us are accustomed to hearing prevention campaigns during the spring and summer. It’s important to remember that prevention is for all seasons.

A few days ago I asked my two nephews how they were spending the last few days of their holiday vacation. The response was an enthusiastic, “snowboarding!” Of course, as you might imagine, my next question was, “Are you wearing your helmets?” They looked at each other and (with a somewhat quizzical and mildly guilty tone) responded, “No” — but quickly added, “We wear them when we ride our bikes!” I almost knew what their answer would be and was quick to explain how important it is to protect your head and brain when engaging in any activity that puts you at risk for falls or a bump on the head. Wearing a helmet is not just for bike rides in the summer. While I wasn’t aware that they received snowboards for Christmas, I was especially concerned about safety in light of the recent news of Kevin Pearce, the champion snowboarder who is hospitalized in critical condition after sustaining a severe traumatic brain injury while preparing for the qualifying events for the upcoming Olympics in Vancouver. Kevin is obviously a well trained and well equipped athlete, and accidents happen — especially at the professional level where the risks are much greater. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, falls are the number one cause of traumatic brain injuries in the U.S., and helmets are 85% effective in reducing the risk of brain injury. It is important to remember, whether engaging in professional sports or just having some recreational fun, we must take every precaution to protect our brains.

Snowboarding, skiing, sledding, — these and many other winter activities offer the well trained, as well as the casual participant, a great deal of fun and enjoyment. Remembering to be well equipped with the right protective gear, including a properly fitted helmet, is a must if you want to minimize your risk of injury. My nephews knew that it’s important to wear a helmet when riding a bike — that message came through loud and clear. Let’s continue to spread the word and reinforce the message that any activity that puts your brain at risk, no matter what the season or sport, is worth “gearing up” for!

For more information and resources on brain injury prevention, please visit the following websites: Brain Injury Association of Illinois, www.biail.org., Brain Injury Association of America, www.biausa.org, and ThinkFirst, www.thinkfirst.org.