The brain is a very fragile organ, and even though it has the skull to protect it, it is still very easy to get brain damage, and even more disconcerting is the fact that you might get brain damage from a blow to the head without realizing. How is this possible? Not all brain damage shows up straight away. The body is very good in some cases at protecting itself, and damage to the head, if there are no obvious visual signs of trauma, can be very difficult to assess.
Now, it probably won't surprise anyone to learn that the leading cause of head injuries and brain damage in the US is traffic accidents. With more and more vehicles on the road each year, and more and more activities to fit into a day, there are more opportunities to be injured in a motor vehicle accident. Seat belts and airbags do work towards minimizing body injuries, but there is no doubt that speed kills. Falls cause a lot of brain damage too, especially to the brains of seniors, and some sports related injuries do cause brain damage.
There have been some interesting studies in other countries, that show that sports players who have had more concussions than their team mates score lower on cognitive tests, and that the more concussions the brain receives, the longer it takes for the brain to recover. Scary stuff, that's for sure.
So, what problems does brain damage cause? Because the brain controls so much of our lives, when the brain is damaged in any way, it can lead to a variety of injuries. Of course death is the most serious, but sometimes long term brain damage can be harder to handle as it can lead to paralysis, cognitive problems, vision disturbances, a change in personality (always difficult for family members to deal with), emotional problems, nausea and vomiting, sleep disturbances... and the list goes on.
If it is a child with brain damage, there tends to be a better prognosis for recovery, as the brain is less developed, more plastic and can adapt more easily by building new pathways. For the elderly, it is much harder to build new pathways between brain cells to compensate for the damage that has occurred.
One of the best ways to take care of your brain is to protect it as much as possible, and to avoid accidents - easier said than done! Make sure your home is as accident-proof as possible, with no loose rugs to trip over. Encourage accident prevention at all times when travelling in vehicles. This means always wearing a suitable seatbelt, and for children, remember the booster seat once they have outgrown the baby carrier. Make sure that when playing sports the correct equipment is used at all times, and when cycling a helmet is worn that fits properly. Encourage safety within your family, so that the chance of accidents and brain damage is reduced, and if any of your family or friends suffer brain damage, be there for them, encourage them and give them hope.