The spotlight on concussions in sports has started a conversation about brain injuries from the local to the national level, but the Iowa Department of Public Health says thousands of people who aren’t on the playing field suffer brain injuries each year that go untreated.
The department’s Maggie Ferguson says this is Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month in Iowa and they want people to know the symptoms of a brain injury. “It’s important that people understand that first of all — we have been hearing a lot about concussions and a concussion is a brain injury — I think people just think of it as having their bell rung or seeing stars. But definitely those are consistent with symptoms of a brain injury, so it’s important to know if you are experiencing those symptoms, you should be checked out by a medical professional,” Ferguson says.
The violent hits are the focus of attention for causing concussions in football, but Ferguson says you could suffer one from a simple slip on a wet floor in your home.
“Falls are the number one cause of brain injuries in Iowa,” Ferguson says. Ferguson, the IDPH’s Brain Injury & Disability Program Manager, says there are several symptoms that you should recognize. “Initially people might experience a headache, they could be a little confused, they could have balance problems or disiness, feel a little sluggish, maybe foggy, also might experience some vomiting or be bothered by light or noise,” Ferguson says. “For some people there might be loss of consciousness…that’s not always something that might happen.”
She says it’s important if you experience such symptom that you get checked out before you go on about your daily routine. “You never know how long those symptoms could last, and not having it checked out and continuing on with activities as normal could actually make your situation worse,” according to Ferguson. Blows to the head are a common cause of the brain injury — but not the only cause.
“People don’t even need to necessarily hit their head directly, just being shaken around,” Ferguson says, “having a blow to the body is enough to have your brain juggle around inside your skull and cause some injury.” Ferguson says victims of brain injury can have changes in thinking, language, or even general emotions, that are often missed, and that’s why they call it the “silent epidemic.”
“Brain injury can happen to anybody….like I said, falls are the number one cause of brain injury. We see it being the number one cause in the very young and the very old. So, across the board it is something we should be concerned about,” Ferguson says.
For information on prevention and resources available regarding brain injuries, you can visit the Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa’s website at: biaia.org, or visit the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website at: idph.iowa.gov/brain-injuries.