teens brain injury underscores importance of bike helmets

Parents are painfully aware of the fact that things have changed considerably since they were the same age as their teenage children. From fashion and music to technology and popular expressions, what was once considered “cool” in their day likely does not enjoy such vaunted status among today’s teens.

However, not all generational shifts are so superficial. For example, it wasn’t that long ago that the majority of teens would openly scoff at the idea of wearing a helmet while riding a bike or a skateboard. Now, many teens — perhaps thanks to the ever-growing popularity of extreme sporting events — can be seen wearing helmets and other safety gear without so much as a second thought.

Despite the widespread social acceptance of helmets, teens, like adults, can sometimes forget to grab them on the way out the door and inadvertently put themselves in harm’s way.

Consider the case of an 18-year-old from Long Island, New who suffered a traumatic brain injury after falling off her skateboard while riding with a friend during Memorial Day weekend 2012.

The teen was airlifted to a nearby hospital where she underwent emergency cranial surgery to treat a hematoma (brain bleeding). A team of neurosurgeons performed a procedure called a craniectomy in which a piece of her skull measuring several inches in length was removed to relieve potentially deadly pressure on the brain.

After another surgery and extensive physical therapy and speech therapy, she has made a full recovery. In fact, she is set to graduate from high school in just a few weeks and has received a full scholarship to a four-year college where she plans to study art.

She recently presented the neurosurgery team that saved her life with one of her paintings as a gesture of gratitude but also received a gift from the hospital — a bicycle helmet, which she immediately donned.

“After this experience I realize the true value of life,” she said. “It pays to wear a helmet, and none of this would have happened if I were wearing a helmet.”

It’s important to understand that not all TBI cases end so well. The reality is that more subtle yet equally dangerous TBIs are often misdiagnosed by medical professionals.

To illustrate, physicians in hectic hospital or urgent care settings often do not devote significant time to examining patients with possible TBIs, dismissing their complaints of dizziness, blurred vision and loss of balance as symptoms of other, less serious conditions. Sadly, this can result in irreparable harm to TBI patients and, by extension, their loved ones.

Here’s hoping that teens participating in activities with even the slightest risk of head injuries continue to protect themselves from the dangers of TBIs, and that medical professionals become more proficient as far as TBIs are concerned.

Please visit our website to learn more about traumatic brain injuries.

Source: HealthCanal.com, “Teen brain injury patient: It pays to wear a helmet,” May 30, 2013

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