Reduce Concussion Risk During Everyday Activities

Reduce Concussion Risk During Everyday Activities

By Eric Requa, DO, Sports Medicine Primary Care Physician—Virtua Sports Medicine

Many people believe only athletes who play contact sports are at risk for concussions. However, many concussions are sustained during everyday activities. Although it’s impossible to completely prevent concussions, you can lower your concussion risk by following general safety guidelines.

A concussion occurs when a sudden acceleration or deceleration causes your brain to slam against the inside of your skull. Due to the jolt your brain receives during the sudden impact, car accidents and falls are among the most common concussion culprits. 

Falls inside your home

Falls inside the home are one of the most common causes of concussions. To reduce your risk, you should:

  • Install handrails: Sturdy handrails, especially on staircases, can prevent nasty tumbles. If you have young children, install gates at the top and bottom of any staircase.
  • Reduce clutter: Keeping stairs and walkways clear can prevent slips and trips in your home. If you have young children, pick up small toys, and store larger items out of the way.
  • Upgrade your bathroom: The bathroom is a prime place for concussion-causing falls. If you have an older adult or a person with limited mobility in your home, install a shower/tub seat, get a low-entry shower, and place a handrail in the tub or shower. Nonslip shower adhesives and bath rugs also may help. Young children are also prone to falls in the bathroom, so supervise them closely.
  • Use nonslip rugs and floor mats: Purchasing rugs and floor mats with nonslip backing will keep them in their proper places while keeping you safe.
  • Wear nonslip socks or slippers: If you have uncarpeted floors, regular socks can cause you to slip. Instead, opt for a cozy pair of nonslip socks or slippers.

Falls outside your home

Being active outdoors has many health benefits, but you should do your best to avoid accidental slips and stumbles that could result in a concussion. To reduce your risk, you should:

  • Avoid unstable surfaces: Unstable surfaces with gravel, sand, tree roots, hills or other obstacles can increase your fall risk.
  • Be mindful of floor surfaces: On snowy or rainy days, the hard floors found in many public buildings can become slick quickly. Avoid slippery areas, and dry your feet on a floor mat if possible.
  • Be prepared for your activity: Whether you decide to go for a run, walk or bike ride, familiarize yourself with the path and wear appropriate footwear. You also should make sure weather conditions are suitable, your equipment is in good condition and your path is free of hazards.
  • Don’t rely on helmets alone: Although you SHOULD wear a helmet to prevent skull fractures and cuts/bruises while horseback riding, skiing/snowboarding, cycling, etc., helmets alone do not prevent concussions.
  • Look for tripping hazards: Be cautious of curbs, steps, bumps in the sidewalk or other hazards that could cause a stumble.
  • Watch for ice and snow: During winter, avoid icy and snowy sidewalks, driveways and parking lots, and walk in the grass for additional traction. If you have to walk on icy/snowy surfaces, wear sturdy shoes or boots, and move slowly.

Car accidents

Unfortunately, concussions sustained during car accidents are largely unpreventable. To lower your risk of having a traffic accident, drive safely, and avoid distractions such as text messaging, talking on the phone, eating and using your vehicle’s navigation or entertainment system while driving.

Treating a concussion

If you think you’ve sustained a concussion, seek medical treatment immediately. Your doctor will evaluate your history of concussions, the severity of your symptoms and the kind of force that caused your concussion. Based on that information, your doctor will recommend an individualized treatment plan that may include:

  • Rest and restricted activity
  • Over-the-counter or prescription medication
  • Comfort measures, such as ice or massage
  • Limiting cognitive activity, such as screen time, reading and schoolwork
  • A dim, quiet environment

No matter what caused your concussion, our specialists can provide the care you need.

For concussion treatment information or to make an appointment with a Virtua concussion specialist, call 1-888-VIRTUA-3.

Updated November 7, 2019

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