Trudi Fisher, M.S., CCC-SLP
Marcus Daly Rehabilitation Center
1200 Westwood Drive
Hamilton, MT 59840
Brain Injury in Montana: Education and Prevention
When thinking of head injuries, it is easy to imagine that they could occur
during extreme sports or automobile accidents. However, the most common
cause of head injuries is falling. Especially prone to falling head injuries
are those less than 4 years old and those older thank 64. Males are also
at greater risk of head injury, particularly those between 16 and 19 years
old. Montana ranks second in the United States for cases of traumatic
brain injury where, according to the Montana Research and Economic Development
Initiative, 13% of adult Montanans are affected by traumatic brain injury.
A traumatic brain injury is an injury inflicted on the brain that can result
in permanent disability or death. Caused by bumps, blows, toxins, or a
penetrating force to the head, the severity of a brain injury is rated
by the period of unconsciousness. A period greater than 30 minutes of
unconsciousness is classified as a traumatic brain injury (TBI). An unconscious
event less than 30 minutes is categorized as a mild traumatic brain injury
(mTBI). Mild traumatic brain injuries are frequently caused by concussions,
the effects of which can last longer than three months. mTBI’s are
less severe and often undiagnosed but can have serious impacts on completing
simple activities and result in permanent disability.
Life after Brain Injury
Unfortunately, there are not always physical indications of severe handicap
with brain injuries which makes it difficult for friends, family, and
community members to understand the recovery process. A brain injury can
prevent a person from engaging in daily activities including basic routines,
scheduling, grocery shopping, communicating, work, or hobbies. Physical
effects of a brain injury can include changes in consciousness, severe
headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, muscular impairment, or difficulty
swallowing. Sensory impacts often include visual, hearing, and vestibular
impairments including light and sound sensitivity or decrease in vision
or hearing acuity. Neurobehavioral changes can include changes in personality,
emotions, impulsivity, and difficulty sleeping. Cognitive changes can
include impaired memory, perception, attention, writing, and any area
of producing and understanding language. When a person experiences an
mTBI or TBI, they are likely to have decreased quality of life and have
difficulty completing tasks that once were commonplace.
Recovery expectation varies depending on the severity of the injury and
symptoms a person experiences. Often when a person has a brain injury,
they will engage in rehabilitation through a variety of therapies including
physical, occupational, and speech-language therapies. These therapists
work with the patient and their families to provide individualized treatment
based on the patient’s need. Therapists can assist patients in regaining
the ability to speak, understand information, schedule, balance, walk, and move.
Brain injuries and Speech-Language Pathology
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) are trained in areas of cognition,
language, swallowing, and speech and can be an important resource for
someone after they have a brain injury. Persons who experience swallowing
difficulties after a brain injury may see an SLP to assist in maintaining
a protected airway during meals. Speech-language pathologists provide
cognitive communicative treatment for patients with brain injuries who
may have difficulty with planning, speaking, emotions, communication,
memory, and many other symptoms. SLPs work closely with physicians, physical
and occupational therapists, mental health care providers, the patient,
and family members to provide best possible care. Cognitive rehabilitation
can include the use of compensatory strategies to help people with brain
injuries return to a higher quality of life and allow them to engage in
all the activities, small and large, that make our lives enjoyable. Fortunately,
with a cohesive rehabilitation team, patients with brain injuries can
learn ways to engage in activities, conversation, and life during recovery.
Prevention and Resources
Prevention of accidents that lead to brain injuries can impact parents,
children, and all adults. All active adults and kids can protect their
brain by choosing protective helmets when on ATVs, motorcycles, bicycles,
skis/snowboards, or climbing. Injuries sustained during these activities
can result in death or disability. When traveling in a vehicle, ensure
that your children are adequately secured in seat belts or car seats.
If you have questions about car seat installation, contact Ravalli County
Public Health, or the national organization, Safe Kids. When having a
social drink after work, consider if you can walk, contact a sober driver,
or drink at home. After alcohol intake, the chance of injury increases
and recovery from a head injury sustained with alcohol in the system is
more difficult. In general, clear walkways in your home or place of work
and use caution when walking on snowy, icy, and wet surfaces as the highest
number of head injuries occur because of falls. Enjoy our wonderful state
and protect yourself, your children, and family from a head injury.
If you think you or someone you know has experienced a head injury, immediately
contact a healthcare professional to treat and mitigate the effects of
these complex and devastating injuries.
There are many resources available for head injuries and prevention online
and in our community including Montana’s Brain Injury Alliance,
the Center for Disease Control’s Head’s Up program, and many others.
Trudi Fisher, M.S., CCC-SLP, is a certified speech-language pathologist
who provides care for patients with brain injuries, impaired cognitive
function, impaired swallowing function, voice disorders, aphasia, expressive
and receptive language disorders, and speech sound disorders. She enjoys
recreating in the Montana wilderness with her family and friends.
This week’s community health column is brought to you by Marcus Daly
Memorial Hospital. For questions and or comments, please contact Trudi
Fisher, M.S., CCC-SLP at the Marcus Daly Rehabilitation Department at
1200 Westwood Drive, Hamilton MT, 59840 or call 406-375-4570. Working
together to build a healthier community!
American Speech and Hearing Association. (n.d.).
Traumatic Brain Injury in Adults
. Retrieved from https://www.asha.org/PRPSpecificTopic.aspx?folderid=8589935337§ion=Incidence_and_Prevalence
Brain Injury Alliance of Montana. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://biamt.org.
Center for Disease Control. (n.d.).
Brain Injury Basics. Retrieved from Heads Up: https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/severe_brain_injury.html
Montana Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Bureau. (2015).
Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries; 2010-2013. Injury Prevention Program Surveillance Report, Helena.
Montana University System. (n.d.).
Montana Research and Economic Development Initiative. Retrieved from Traumatic Brain Injury: http://mus.edu/research/Funded/TraumaticBrainInjury.as