WVAC 911: ‘Touch the brain, never the same’

With the fall sports season now in full swing, Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps (WVAC) is working to raise awareness about traumatic brain injury. Improved prevention, recognition, and response can help address this important public health problem. The WVAC provides pre-hospital care to victims (adult, children and teen) of traumatic brain injury. The most common causes of traumatic brain injury (TBI) are vehicle crashes, falls, sports injuries, and violence. Each year, approximately 50,000 people die from brain injuries and 80,000 to 90,000 people experience long-term disability from brain injury. Thus the saying used by doctors, “Touch the brain, never the same,” has validity.
TBI is defined as a temporary or permanent alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force, while an acquired brain injury (ABI) is an injury to the brain, which is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma. An acquired brain injury is an injury to the brain that has occurred after birth. Examples of acquired brain injury include stroke, near drowning, tumor, neurotoxins, electric shock or lightning strike.
The emergency medical technicians of the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps (WVAC) are trained in using the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) to assess anyone experiencing an acute brain injury. The GCS is a standardized system used to assess the degree of brain impairment and to identify the seriousness of injury in relation to outcome. The scale is based on three elements:

  • Eye opening (range 4-1);

  • Verbal responses (range 5-1);

  • Motor response or movement (6-1).

There are numerous types and causes of TBI and ABI, such as concussion, penetrating injury, shaken baby syndrome, and brain injuries resulting in a lack of oxygen to the blood or tissue, to name a few. The severity is labeled as mild, moderate or severe. The vast majority of brain injuries are TBIs and, therefore, in many cases preventable if appropriate safety gear is worn and/or necessary precautions are taken.
Concussions account for 75% of all TBIs. However, the true extent of brain injury is not conveyed by statistics. Tragically, lives, hopes, dreams, families, and friendships are often forever altered in the wake of a brain injury. The effects of brain injuries can be profound. Individuals with severe injuries can be left in long-term unresponsive states. For many people with severe TBI, long-term rehabilitation is often necessary to maximize function and independence. Even with mild TBI, the consequences to a person’s life can be dramatic.
Injury prevention is one of the most significant healthcare issues in the United States.   Most brain injuries can be prevented or the severity reduced through proper helmet selection and use in addition to avoidance of hits to the head.
An adult’s, teen’s or child’s helmet should fit properly and be:

  • Well maintained;

  • Age appropriate;

  • Worn consistently and correctly;

  • Appropriately certified for use.

“While there is no concussion-proof helmet, a helmet can help protect the individual from a serious brain or head injury. Even with a helmet, it is important to avoid hitting the head.” — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov), National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (cdc.gov/injury), Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention.
For more information about recognizing brain injury, understanding groups at high risk for brain injury and preventing brain injury through safety recommendations, visit the Centers for Disease Control website at cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury and review the content at cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury, and cdc.gov/headsup/helmets/index.
It should be noted, however, the terms “mild,” “moderate” and “severe” are used as relative terms to describe the severity of the brain injury and are not meant to trivialize the seriousness of any brain injury. WVAC cautions that this information is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or examination. A person with a suspected brain injury should contact a physician immediately, go to the emergency room, or call 911 in the case of an emergency.

The Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation. Information: wiltonambulance.org, facebook.com/WiltonVolunteerAmbulanceCorps.