State Health Commissioner Urges New Yorkers to Take Safety Precautions to Prevent Head Injuries

March Is National Brain Injury Awareness Month: 2,000 New Yorkers Die Each Year From Preventable Traumatic Brain Injuries

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 9, 2010) — State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. today urged New Yorkers to take safety precautions during Brain Injury Awareness Month to help prevent traumatic brain injuries.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are injuries to the brain or skull caused by an external force such as a strike or impact that can often result in permanent disability.

Each year, 75,000 New Yorkers are treated and released from hospital emergency departments with a TBI diagnosis. TBIs result in the death of more than 2,000 New York State residents and the hospitalization of an additional 18,000, annually.

"Following safety rules and wearing the appropriate headgear can prevent the deaths, injuries, and disabilities caused by traumatic brain injury," said Commissioner Daines. "Wearing a helmet when skiing, bicycling or participating in sports greatly reduces your risk of a brain injury."

The leading causes of TBI are falls, motor vehicle crashes and assaults. The violent shaking of an infant or toddler, known as shaken baby syndrome, is a leading cause of serious brain injury in young children. Young children, young adults and the elderly are at greatest risk of sustaining a TBI. Males are twice as likely to suffer a TBI as females.

To prevent injury, New York State law requires that all children be restrained in an appropriate system while riding in a motor vehicle until they reach their eighth birthday. An appropriate child restraint system meets the child's size and weight recommended by the manufacturer. When riding in a vehicle, older children and adults must wear seatbelts.

To reduce risk of head injury, it is important to wear headgear that is specifically designed for a particular sport or recreational activity. The state Health Department offers helmet safety programs for bicycles, in-line skating, scooters, and skateboarding as well as child and adult passenger safety programs.

To learn more about how to prevent head injury please visit the DOH Web site at: http://www.nyhealth.gov/prevention/injury_prevention/traumatic_brain_injury.htm