Celebrating Brain Injury Awareness Month

Brain injury is often referred to as an “invisible” injury or disability since the effects of the injury are not always visible or immediately evident. However, to anyone who has suffered a brain injury, or to those that care about someone who has, the effects of brain injury are complex and can pervade many aspects of the individual’s life. Brain injury can be difficult to understand, the symptoms can be significant, and the rehabilitation process can be extensive. We are proud to join brain injury survivors, caregivers, and supporters in celebrating Brain Injury Awareness Month. For decades, the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) has led a nationwide public awareness campaign during the month of March to de-stigmatize brain injury through outreach and education.
According to the Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI), in Michigan alone, 58,500 people sustain a brain injury each year. The truth is that no one plans for a brain injury, but brain injuries can happen to anyone, at any time. Please join us this month as we spread awareness and educate others on the definition of brain injury, its causes, and where to seek proper rehabilitative care.

What is a Brain Injury?

Just as there are no two people alike, no two brain injuries are the same. An acquired brain injury is an injury to the brain that has occurred after birth; these injuries are not a result of heredity, nor are they congenital or degenerative. There are two types of acquired brain injuries, non-traumatic and traumatic. A non-traumatic brain injury is caused by damage to the brain by internal factors, such as lack of oxygen, exposure to toxins, pressure from a tumor, and so on. A traumatic brain injury is an injury to the brain that is caused by an outside force or impact that is sudden and damaging.

Common Causes of Brain Injury

  • Stroke
  • Anoxia/hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain)
  • Neurotoxic poisoning (ingestion of insecticides, solvents, lead)
  • Tumors
  • Virus/infection
  • Seizures
  • Falls
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Struck by an object
  • Sports
  • Improvised Explosive Device (IED)
  • Assault

Brain Injury Recovery

Following a brain injury, it is imperative to receive the proper rehabilitative care. Brain injury survivors can experience an array of cognitive, physical, and emotional/behavioral challenges. These symptoms can often concur feelings of hopelessness in survivors and caregivers, but there is hope. The goal of brain injury rehabilitation is to maximize function and encourage survivors to achieve their fullest potential. Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center brings together a team of experts from the following disciplines including physiatry, psychiatry, psychology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, recreational therapy, rehabilitation nursing, vocational, and more in order to tailor a care plan to the needs of each survivor. The rehabilitation journey begins with a thorough assessment to identify the individual’s exact needs and goals. At Origami, survivors and their support systems are an essential part of the interdisciplinary team and the rehabilitation journey. It is important brain injury survivors and caregivers know they are not alone on this journey. If you have a question about brain injury or if you are interested in learning more about brain injury rehabilitation, please visit our website at origamirehab.org or call us at 517-336-6060. For those looking for support, visit BIAMI's Support Group page or call them at (800) 444-6443. Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Lansing, Michigan. Origami provides comprehensive rehabilitation care for survivors of brain injuries and their families. Through their compassionate and innovative services, Origami creates opportunities and transforms lives.

How to Decrease Your Risk of Falling Following a Brain Injury

Along with ringing in the New Year, January is sure to bring plenty of snow and ice! The onset of slippery conditions can cause an increase in incidences of falls. Though the majority of falls only result in mild injuries such as muscle soreness or bruising, approximately 10% of falls result in a trip to the emergency department. Some falls may be unavoidable, but being informed of the risks and actively making changes can reduce the risk of falling. With 30-65% of people with brain injuries reporting balance deficits at some point during recover, it is especially important for survivors to be aware of the facts that make them more susceptible to falling. Factors to Consider: Are you over 65 years old? Approximately 1 out of 4 people over the age of 65 experience a fall every year, with falls being the leading cause of injuries in this population. Do you take multiple medications? Individual medications or interactions between multiple medications may cause an increase in risk of falling. Researchers have found that certain classes of medications including sedatives and antidepressants may contribute to increased falls risk. If you notice an increase in falls with the start of a new medication, be sure to contact your physician. Have you fallen more than once in the last year? Previous falls are an indicator of an increased likelihood for subsequent falls. If you have previously fallen it is very important to take preventative measures to avoid reoccurring falls. Do you have vision deficits? Vision is an important component of balance, and having vision deficits significantly increase the risk of falls. Blurred vision, double vision, and other visual impairments are common after a brain injury; therefore, it is important to follow up with your optometrist or ophthalmologist if you suspect any changes in your vision. They may make changes to your eye glasses or refer you to an occupational therapist for vision therapy. Do you have impaired sensation in your legs? It is common to experience decreased sensation or proprioception, the perception of movement and positioning of our body, following a brain injury or due to other chronic conditions such as diabetes and peripheral neuropathy. This can cause individuals to trip on objects or lose their balance. Are you depressed? Studies have shown a correlation in increased falls with depression likely due to cognitive, sensory, and motor changes that may occur with brain injuries. Consider talking to your physician, social worker, or counselor if you believe you are experiencing depression. Do you experience dizziness? Dizziness can be a symptom of many conditions including damage to the vestibular system, changes in vision, medication symptoms, or other medical conditions. If you are experiencing dizziness it is advised to consult with your physician. They may refer you to an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist, ophthalmologist or to a vestibular physical therapist depending on the cause. Are you mostly inactive? A decrease in activity can lead to poor cardiovascular endurance and flexibility, as well as weakened muscles, which can increase your risk for falls. Ask your physician if you are able to participate in a regular exercise program, and consider consulting a physical therapist or another expert for a custom exercise program to meet your needs and goals. Do you experience incontinence?Incontinence is associated with an increase in falls due to impulsive and unsafe behavior occurring when a sudden urge to urinate occurs. Depending on the type of incontinence and the severity, different techniques such as utilizing caregiver assistance, bed pans, pads, or Kegels may be appropriate. A pelvic floor specialist can aid with decreasing episodes of incontinence. If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be at an increased risk for falling. Many brain injury survivors may have answered yes to many of the above questions; because of this, individuals who have experienced a brain injury have a significant increased risk of falling. Although some risk factors such as age are out of our control, many others may be modified to reduce your risk. If you believe you or a loved one is at an increased risk for falling, there are some simple modifications that can be made to decrease the risk:
  • Remove tripping hazards such as rugs or uneven thresholds in your home
  • If you use an assistive device, make sure you are using it correctly
  • Wear supportive shoes with a rubber sole to prevent shuffling feet and slipping.
  • Use night lights in order to increase visibility at night. Alert systems can be used for individuals requiring more assistance.
  • Shovel snow and apply salt to reduce the risk of slippery sidewalks
These tips can reduce your likelihood of falling and incurring an injury. If you have notice any recent changes or have questions regarding your balance, please contact your physician. References
  • Kallin, Kristina, et al. "Predisposing and precipitating factors for falls among older people in residential care." Public health 116.5 (2002): 263-271.
  • Lord, Stephen R., Hylton B. Menz, and Catherine Sherrington. "Home environment risk factors for falls in older people and the efficacy of home modifications." Age and ageing 35.suppl_2 (2006): ii55-ii59.
  • Peterson, Michelle, and Brian D. Greenwald. "Balance problems after traumatic brain injury." Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation 96.2 (2015): 379-380.
  • Thurman, David J., Judy A. Stevens, and Jaya K. Rao. "Practice parameter: assessing patients in a neurology practice for risk of falls (an evidence-based review): report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology." Neurology 70.6 (2008): 473-479.
  • Woolcott, John C., et al. "Meta-analysis of the impact of 9 medication classes on falls in elderly persons." Archives of internal medicine 169.21 (2009): 1952-1960.
Emily Wolf, PT, DPT Physical Therapist, The Lighthouse Neurological Rehabilitation Center

Emily graduated from Arcadia University with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. Her academic focus was primarily on treatment of adolescents and adults post-concussion. She has been practicing as a physical therapist at The Lighthouse Neurological Rehabilitation Center in Kingsley, Michigan since 2017.

Lids for Kids

No one debates the importance of wearing a helmet when riding a bike, but hardly anyone knows just how critical this one piece of safety equipment is in preventing injury. So here’s a relevant statistic: Roughly 88% of bike-related brain injuries and deaths could be prevented by wearing a properly fitted helmet. That’s the good news. What’s not so good is the percentage of bikers who actually wear helmets. That statistic is a sobering 18 percent. And even worse, only 15 percent of bikers under the age of 15 wear helmets. It’s the disjunction between the effect helmets have in preventing injuries and saving lives, on one hand, and the number of riders who actually use them, on the other, that prompted the Sinas Dramis Law firm to conceive and develop the Lids for Kids program. “In serving victims of vehicle accidents, which includes bicyclists,” reported Tom Sinas of the Sinas Dramis firm, “we saw firsthand the dangers posed by forgetting or even refusing to wear a helmet. We want people to wear helmets and we know this habit must be cultivated at an early age.” The statistics cited above are also what prompted the BIAMI’s interest in participating with Sinas Dramis as a co-sponsor. “As the conduit between brain injury survivors and Michigan’s extensive and outstanding network of brain injury professionals, we witness the impact of brain injury every day and have recognized the importance of prevention from day one,” said BIAMI President Tom Constand. “When our friends at Sinas Dramis discussed the prospect of BIAMI co-sponsoring these events, there wasn’t a second’s hesitation on our part. It completely aligns with our mission to reduce the incidence and impact of brain injury, and we’re proud to play a part in the continued and overwhelming success of this program.” Lids for Kids is a bike helmet giveaway and helmet-fitting program that serves kids in underserved neighborhoods. Since the program began in 2003, more than 10,000 bike helmets have been donated and the event has expanded from Lansing to also include helmet giveaways, trained volunteer fittings, and bike raffles in Traverse City and Grand Rapids. Recent events have even become community fun fests, with face-painting booths, prizes, police and fire department activities for kids, mascot visits, and live radio remote broadcasts. This caliber of success for Lids for Kids would not be possible without the support of local partners – BIAMI members Agevix in Traverse City, Origami in Lansing, and Mary Free Bed and Hope Network in Grand Rapids – not least because their staff member volunteers play key roles in the continued growth of this amazing program. 2018 has been the program’s most successful year to date with a combined total of over 1500 helmets given away and properly fitted. That’s a statistic worth bragging about, which is why the BIAMI would like to thank all Lids for Kids event sponsors, partners, and volunteers – with a very special thank you for the foundational efforts of Sinas Dramis and their ongoing and very much hands-on work in program administration, logistics, personnel, and financial support! There’s clearly a long way to go in promoting widespread bike helmet use and ultimately reducing the number of bicyclist injuries and deaths, but efforts such as Lids for Kids are indeed having an impact on the statistics and keeping our very youngest riders in particular safe from bike-related head injuries.
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