Giffords, Clinton spotlight range of traumatic brain injury

Friday, February 22, 2013

Slippery conditions like we are experiencing now call for taking extra precautions against injuries of all types, but none are more important to avoid than traumatic brain injury.

The issue has been in the news as it relates to football at all levels, from junior high to professional, with the NFL taking steps to address the problem.

But Kate Kulesher Jarecke, executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Nebraska, points out two other national figures who bring the message home during National Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month.

Two years ago, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords survived a point-blank gunshot wound to the head that would have been fatal to 90 percent of the people who suffered a similar wound.

But brain injuries take many forms, Kulesher pointed out, citing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is still recovering after fainting and suffering a concussion in a fall at her home.

"A concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head -- any fall or blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth," Kulesher said.

While usually not life-threatening, their effects can linger and be serious. For instance, reporters have noticed that Clinton is wearing uncustomarily thick glasses, possibly the result of blurred or double vision that can linger weeks or months depending on the severity of the head injury.

"In Gifford's case, an injury that happen s in an instant can bring a lifetime of physical, cognitive and behavior challenges," Kulesher said. "And in Clinton's case, the significance of this story is that concussions are still brain injuries. Get treated and know that concussions do take time to heal, and there can be lasting effects that should be monitored.

"We wish both women the best recovery possible," Kulesher said.

The Brain Injury Association of Nebraska pointed out the following take-home messages from the Giffords and Clinton cases:

1. Any sudden change in speech or weakness or trouble walking needs immediate attention at the emergency department of the closest hospital.

2. Any fall that causes facial bruising or loss of consciousness needs evaluation.

3. Any time the head smacks against a hard surface, there is a chance of brain trauma because the brain can strike the inside of the skull.

4. Symptoms can show up weeks after trauma, so don't ignore changes in personality or behavior, especially in older folks.

For more information, regarding concussions and brain injuries go to the Brain Injury Association of Nebraska's website - www.biane.org -- and look for the "What is Brain Injury" tab or "Sports Concussion" tab.

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