Healthy Living in the North

Heads up! Prevention and management of concussions

Man wearing a helmet and safety vest while holding a bicycle.

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month, which is a great time to learn more about concussions. Wearing protective gear, including a helmet, is one of the most important things you can do to prevent concussions.

Running, jumping, climbing, tumbling and participating in sports are excellent ways for children and youth to exercise, meet new friends and learn life lessons. But along with the benefits of physical activity, there are associated risks, like the risk for concussions.

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month, which is a great chance to learn more about concussions.

Concussions are caused by a direct blow to the head or other body part resulting in a rotational movement of the brain within the skull.

How can you prevent concussions?

  • Wear protective gear, including a helmet, for sports and recreation.
  • Buckle your seatbelt.
  • Make your home safe. Keep your home well-lit and your floors free of clutter. To reduce the risk of injury to children, use edge and corner guards on furniture, block off stairways and install window guards.
  • Wear appropriate shoes.
  • Ensure a safe playground. Choose a well-maintained playground for your child with a ground surface made of shock-absorbing material like mulch or sand.

Evidence suggests that children and youth are at the greatest risk of having a concussion. They also take longer to recover. Concussions can permanently change the way a child or youth talks, walks, learns, works and interacts with others.

So how do we encourage our children to stay active, grow, develop and play while minimizing these risks?

It’s important for parents, coaches, educators and players to understand how to prevent, recognize and manage concussions. Having the resources and tools to do so is the first step in minimizing the risk to our children.

The British Columbia Injury Research and Prevention Unit has developed a free online training tool on the recognition, management and prevention of concussions. The Concussion Awareness Training Tool (CATT) supports parents, coaches, players and educators to take the necessary steps to prevent long-term consequences of concussions and to understand the effects and treatment should such an injury occur.

Visit cattonline.com for up to date concussion education training and to complete a free course! A toolkit designed specifically for educators is coming soon!

Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie grew up in rural Newfoundland and moved to B.C. in 2003. After graduating from the nursing program at Thompson Rivers University in 2007 she moved to Prince George to start her career. She has a passion for population and public health and is the Regional Lead for Sexual and Reproductive Health. After falling in love with the north she purchased a rural property and began to build her hobby farm and family. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found happily doing something outside on her farm with her family.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Brain Awareness Week

MRI machine

MRIs and other tools have created a wealth of knowledge about the brain and how it works but even these advances are just the tip of the iceberg! Look after your brain by looking after your overall well-being!

Brain Awareness Week is happening this week and that’s got me thinking about our wondrous brains!

Your brain is wonderful. Everything it does affects you – and everything that you do affects your brain in some way – so it’s very important to keep your brain healthy. But what does that look like exactly?

One important aspect of brain health is mental wellness, and the BC Healthy Living Alliance has some great information on that connection.

In spite of all the advances of modern science, the brain is still very mysterious. Most mental illnesses, for example, have no blood tests or scans which can determine their existence or origin. Research in this area continues but given the complexity of the brain, understanding this area fully is a tall order! It seems to me like there are billions of possible connections to explore! We do have some tools, though. Functional MRIs can see areas of the brain that light up when certain tasks are being undertaken but they can’t tell us what someone is thinking. In the same vein, EEG states are electrical readings that might point to sleep, waking, or other states determined by the waves seen on a screen.

As wonderful as this all is – and it truly is wonderful – nothing that we have so far can take the complex whole of brain cells and nerve endings and synapses and read all of the electrochemical messages and make sense of them.

Just how complex are our brains? Here’s one way to think of it:

When I read back this text, I have a voice in my head that is reading the text simultaneously. I am aware of the mess on my desk, the room I am in, and the fact that I have just smacked my lips. I am aware of the pressure on my buttocks from the chair, that it’s cloudy outside, that there are people putting drywall up in my bedroom, and so on. All of this is being processed in fractions of milliseconds! Where is that information? This awareness is just the tip of the iceberg – think of all the unconscious things I’m not aware of!

Still, in spite of all its mystery, we know that if certain areas of the brain are damaged, for example, you won’t be able to lift your hand or move your foot. But to further complicate matters, it’s also known that one area of the brain can learn to take over a function that is normally processed or caused by another area in the brain.

Phew! My head – or should I say my brain – is spinning with the mind-bending reality of it all!

So with all of this mystery during Brain Awareness Week, while we keep learning more and more about the brain every day, can I suggest these brain-boosting healthy living messages for us to try?

  • Eat well.
  • Get enough rest.
  • Don’t smoke or take chemicals (think drugs) into your brain.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Be as happy and as positive in outlook as possible.
  • Do life wholeheartedly.
  • Look after your mind, your body, and your spiritual needs as best as you can.
  • Get involved in your community.
  • Laugh a lot.
  • Be grateful for the small things in life.
  • Meditate or do yoga.

Your brain and you are one in the same, so looking after your overall physical and psychological well-being is important.

I wish you the best with my whole brain and my whole being.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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