It is rather strange that something as frail as the neck and skull is supposed to protect such a valuable payload. Damage to our brains can compromise our quality of life quite drastically and yet it is not something we instinctively look after unless instructed to do so. Over five percent of people suffer severe head injuries each year and those who accrued light to moderate bumps might even be more. Our brains, seemingly, are not well looked after.
According to the South African government around 89 000 cases of new traumatic brain injuries are reported annually in the country. This is quite a startling number and while accidents are responsible for a large portion of this, negligence also plays a role, especially on our roads. The government states that the three most common causes of head injuries are motor vehicle, bicycle or vehicle-pedestrian accidents accounting for 50 percent of injuries, falls make up 25 percent and violence 20 percent. Sporting injuries, while less common, are on the rise; rugby is quite the culprit.
March 20 marks World Head Injury Awareness Day and it advocates that people take better care of their treasured gifts. On this day people are encouraged, if they make use of any form of transport, that they use seatbelts and helmets correctly according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Those who are involved in contact sport like rugby, American football should heed the proper protocol following a head knock. Cyclists and extreme athletes are at particular risk and are urged to make use of any available safety equipment.
Here are a few easy-to-follow tips to mitigate the risk of head injuries:
- 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.