Brain Featured Injury Prevention

Top 6 tips to help prevent brain injury this summer

Family wearing seatbelts in a car
Written by Dr. Sara Mitchell

When the mercury rises, many of us can’t wait to venture outdoors and enjoy the warm weather. There is so much to do: biking, hiking, swimming and more. While fun in the sun is key, it’s important to take steps to prevent brain injury.

Summer is often referred to as “trauma season” in the health care world due to the large number of injuries that can potentially happen during summertime activities.

Here are 6 tips to avoid brain injury this summer:

1. Wear a helmet. Always wear a properly fitted helmet when bicycling, motorcycling, or engaging in any recreational or sporting activity that may result in head injury. Although wearing a helmet does not necessarily prevent concussion, it can prevent other types of damage like facial trauma, skull fracture, and will provide an important extra layer of head protection. Protective headgear is especially important for bicycle riders in a big urban city centres like Toronto during the summertime, when accident and brain injury rates often peak. Also, remember to replace your helmet after any serious injury because it’s not as protective as it was before a crash. It’s important to stay safe!

2. Wear a lifejacket. Whether you’re in the ocean, lake or in a pool, wearing safety gear such as a life jacket can prevent serious or potentially life-threatening injury. It can also help prevent devastating head injury. A life jacket is especially important during watersports to ensure that you can keep your head above water if you were to suddenly become unconscious. Make sure the life jacket is well-fitted, worn correctly and well-maintained.

3. Buckle up in the car. Summer road trips can be so much fun. Stay safe on any drive this summer by wearing your seatbelt. Buckling up, can help save lives. It can also help save your brain. Research has shown that belted passengers or drivers sustain fewer and less severe traumatic brain injuries compared to those who are unbelted.

4. Make your home and backyard safe, especially for the young and elderly. Falls are a leading cause of concussion for both the young and the elderly. Ensure that your home and outdoor spaces are well-lit and free of hazards that may lead to a trip and fall, such as loose rugs or scattered toys. To help reduce the risk of head injuries to children, block off stairways with safety gates and install window guards.

5. Know your limitations and be familiar with your surroundings. When hiking, ‘cliff jumping’ or engaging in any high risk sports or motor activities in the summertime, make sure you are aware of the terrain you are about to encounter. For instance, knowing the depth or water prior to diving is critical to prevent concussion or other injuries. Always ensure that a loved one knows exactly where you are and how to find you. Concussion can occur quickly and acute confusion can make it difficult to let others know you are in need of help. Stay safe!

6. Know the signs and symptoms of concussion. Unlike a fracture or strain, the symptoms of concussion can be subtle. Know the symptoms so that you can recognize and seek help for yourself, a friend or a loved one immediately to prevent further complications.

Some common symptoms of concussion include: headache, blurred or double vision, forgetfulness, poor memory or feeling “in a fog” or “dazed.”

Learn more about common causes and symptoms of concussions to help you and your family prevent brain injury and stay safe this summer.

About the author

Dr. Sara Mitchell

Dr. Sara Mitchell is a neurologist at Sunnybrook whose expertise is in the diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. She has a specific interest in the interface between neurology and psychiatry. Dr. Mitchell is an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto. She is also a frequent contributor to CBC Life.