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Prevent brain injury

Reviewed By: Purnima Unni, MPH, CHES, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program Coordinator at Children's Hospital (Last Updated: March 20, 2012)

For brain injury awareness month, experts at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt are reinforcing the importance of helmet use during various activities and offering brain injury prevention tips.

Children's Hospital trauma data shows that about 78 percent of children who were admitted to the hospital for bicycle, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and skateboard-related injuries were NOT wearing a helmet.

"Helmet usage among the pediatric population admitted to our hospital is significantly low and of great concern," says Purnima Unni, MPH, CHES, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program Coordinator at Children's Hospital.

"Research has shown that helmet usage can reduce the risk of head and serious brain injury by 70 percent to 88 percent. Bike helmets are highly effective in protecting children from head injuries."

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a blow, jolt or bump to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. The severity of a TBI may range from "mild" (a brief change in mental status or consciousness) to "severe" (an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury).

Unni urges health care professionals to reinforce safety messages to parents, and reminds parents to be role models as well, to enforce safe behaviors.


  • About 1.7 million people suffer a TBI in the United States each year.
  • Approximately 75 percent of TBIs that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI).
  • The two leading causes of TBI in the United States are falls (35.2 percent) and motor vehicle crashes (17.3 percent). Falls cause half (50 percent) of the TBIs among children up to age 14.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are many ways to reduce the chances of a TBI, including:

Wearing a helmet and making sure your children wear helmets when:

  • Riding a bike, scooter or all-terrain vehicle
  • Playing a contact sport, such as football, ice hockey or boxing
  • Using in-line skates or riding a skateboard
  • Riding a horse

Wearing a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle.

Buckling your child in the car using a child safety seat, booster seat or seat belt (according to the child's height, weight and age)

Making living areas safer for children, by:

  • Installing window guards to keep young children from falling out of open windows
  • Using safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs when young children are around

Reinforcing safety behaviors like:

  • Never leaving an infant alone while on a bed, furniture or changing table.
  • Using safety straps when a baby is on a changing table, bouncer, highchair or stroller.
  • Keeping a baby safe in a car seat by always fastening the harness even if using car seat as a carrier

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Additional sites rich with information and resources on a variety of health conditions and tips include:

Health & Wellness Library

Growing up Healthy

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