What you should know about a hit on the head

Who doesn’t remember Sidney Crosby’s head concussion that kept him out of hockey for months? But how many know about the hazards of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI)? A report from Johns Hopkins University says it doesn’t always take a hockey blow to trigger a brain concussion.

The skull normally provides protection against brain injury. But there’s a limit to this protection and at times just a bump or a jolt to the head can cause severe damage to brain nerve cells, called neurons.

TBIs can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the degree of injury. It’s estimated that 1.7 million occur each year in the U.S. and 75% are mild concussions.

But there’s a disturbing trend. The number of cases of TBIs in older people is increasing each year. For instance, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a recent four year period there was a 46% increase in emergency hospital visits and a 34% increase in hospitalizations among those 65 and older for TBIs.

It warns people not to be misled by the term ‘mild TBI.’ Specialists in this disorder say that, although most people recover in a few days, 15% suffer from persistent and disabling problems that can affect relationships and employment.

One reason is that older people often suffer from chronic problems such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and general fragility. These make recovery more difficult.

The most common cause of TBI in those 65 and older is falling and striking the head. In the past 10 years fall-related deaths increased by a whopping 56% according to the CDC. The majority of those requiring hospitalization were 75 and older and they accounted for the most deaths.

Those with elderly parents should realize that many of these falls are preventable. So make sure you remove needless clutter from their homes, tape down or get rid of loose rugs, add non-skid mats for the bathtub, install grab bars, and above all use night lights, as many falls occur while getting to the bathroom.

Check with their doctor to see if medication could be a factor in falling. Remember that poor vision is a particular hazard and that regular exercise helps to maintain coordination.

But what are the precautions once a fall happens? If the person has lost consciousness or blacked out for even a few seconds, make sure they get medical attention. And whatever the outcome of medical care, never leave that person alone for the next 24 hours. You can never be sure that a dramatic change won’t occur.

Today many seniors are also taking blood thinners. They increase the risk of brain hemorrhage. Studies show that anyone taking this medication is three times more likely to suffer a brain hemorrhage than those not on these drugs, even after a minor head injury.

So what should you be looking for if a parent calls to say they’ve struck their head? Make sure they see a doctor if they have any of the following problems, confusion, dizziness, blurred vision, headache, difficulty concentrating, ringing in the ears or memory loss.

For more severe injuries, such as loss of consciousness, vomiting, worsening headache, abnormal breathing, seizures or convulsions, weakness of the arms or legs, amnesia slurred speech or bleeding from the mouth, nose or ears, call an ambulance.

Be aware that even a minor injury may have a delayed response. For instance some surveys reveal that as many as 80% may not be aware they have had a concussion.

So how should TBI be treated? Most with mild concussion recover fully within six months. But 40% develop post-concussion syndrome with symptoms appearing about 10 days following the injury. These people suffer from fatigue, headaches and memory loss which normally last a week.

Tylenol can be used to control pain. But not Aspirin or an anti-inflammatory drug such as Motrin or Advil. These can cause internal bleeding.

And Sidney Crosby would tell you it requires lots of rest to heal a damaged brain, even a mild TBI.

See the web site www.docgiff.com. For comments info@ docgiff.com.

Just Posted

Bruce Buruma enters the UCP nomination race for Red Deer South

Vote for candidate takes place early in the New Year

Rollovers near Ponoka keep crews busy

Wintry road conditions proved a struggle for motorists on the QE2 highway with several incidents

Central Alberta Theatre heads into ‘holiday’ mode with latest offering

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some) open Nov. 17th at the Black Knight Inn

Canada Winter Games upgrades completed at Canyon Ski Resort

Officials say improving the resort makes it a destination for future winter sports competitions

Red Deerian helps Kenyan woman get slushy machine – the first in Northern Kenya

The woman named her store after Red Deer because of all the support

Winter weather hits parts of Canada

As some parts of the country brace for cold, parts of B.C. remain warmer than 10 C

Castor, Forestburg, coal workers get $257,644 to transition to low-carbon economy

Two transition centres will serve seven communities in the Battler River Region

Canada’s health system commendable overall but barriers to care remain: UN

The United Nations says Canada’s health care system is “commendable” overall but vulnerable groups still face barriers to quality care.

Fashion Fridays: 5 coats you need this winter!

Kim XO, lets you know the best online shopping tips during Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Saskatchewan college honours memory of Humboldt Broncos coach

Darcy Haugan wore jersey No. 22 when he was a star player with the Briercrest College Clippers

Liberals to act quickly if Saturday midnight deal deadline breached: source

Oh Friday, Canadian Union of Postal Workers said it would not bring the latest offers to a vote of its members

Police probe several allegations of sex assault at Toronto school

Police say they have learned of other incidents of alleged assault and sexual assault

Missing-persons list tops 600 in fire-stricken California

Disaster escalates as officials raised the death toll to 63

VIDEO: The definition of a kilogram has officially changed

50-plus countries voted to a ground-breaking overhaul to the international system of measurements

Most Read