The Virginia Concussion Initiative (VCI) is an opportunity for experts in various fields to share information and develop programming related to concussion identification and treatment.
Researchers within the VCI have identified three groups that are at greatest risk for Traumatic Brain Injury, including concussion. These groups are ages zero to four; adolescent’s age 15 to 19 years; and the elderly population age 75 and older.
Identifying these specific groups aids in developing appropriate educational and prevention models, explains Andrew Lincoln, ScD, MS, Director, Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Research, Associate Professor, Georgetown University Medical Center.
“For the youngest group, it’s the falls. Whether they are on the playground, or on bikes or in a motor vehicle crash, those are the mechanisms that we are worried about with the youngest children,” says Dr. Lincoln. Properly installed car seats, fitted bike helmets and in-home safety precautions, such as baby gates at the tops and bottoms of stairs, are among the preventive actions that can be taken to keep young children safe.
In the adolescent group, it’s primarily motor vehicle accidents among brand new drivers, and student athletics where concussions and other TBIs are likely to occur. And, for the elderly age 75 and older, it’s primarily falls. The highest risk of fatality from brain injury is among the elderly.
Identifying ways to prevent concussions sometimes bumps up against human behavior, says Dr. Lincoln. “Wearing a helmet, for instance, sounds like an easy intervention. But think about how hard it can be to get kids to wear a helmet. You might go to one neighborhood and, you see all the kids wearing the bike helmet and you go to another neighborhood and there’s no modeling of that behavior. There’s no acceptance of it. So that’s a challenge.
“As far as the bike helmet use, the biggest predictor of a kid wearing a bike helmet is if the parent wears it, the second biggest predictor is if their best friend wears it,” notes Dr. Lincoln.
Obviously, keeping elderly safe from TBIs offers its own set of challenges. The good news is that the aging population tends to be aware of potential risk factors, and it has become easier than ever to install safety equipment and other modifications to decrease fall risk.