Brain injury society lays out need for helmets

Awareness and education is a large portion of what Bulkley Valley Brain Injury does, serving the communities between Hazelton and Houston, as well as helping those who have a brain injury meet the challenges of their day-to-day life.

As you only have one brain, it’s important to take care of it, which is an important aspect to consider as people head out to enjoy the great outdoors.

Awareness and education is a large portion of what Bulkley Valley Brain Injury does, serving the communities between Hazelton and Houston, as well as helping those who have a brain injury meet the challenges of their day-to-day life.

Having a brain injury can make a huge change to one’s life, Phyllis Havard said. She’s the service coordinator with the BVBIA.

Some common effects of brain injury are permanent memory loss, confusion, changes in mood, irritability, or anger, dizziness, fatigue, a difficulty planning, organizing, or sequencing, sensory disturbances, seizures and depression.

“Depending on where the injury is, it can have different effects,” Havard said. “Often people with a brain injury say that things that used to be easy, things they used to be good at, they find really difficult now, sometimes impossible. Family members often say they’re not who they used to be, they’re not the same person.”

Once one has a brain injury, it’s often for life. The BVBIA is there to act as a support system for those with brain injury.

“We can’t take the brain injury away, but we can help people live with a brain injury,” Havard said. “It’s not all doom and gloom.”

The BVBIA helps them to find another support group, a core group of friends, another job, and helps them through life’s challenges throughout.

“But the bottom line is … it does change lives drastically,” Havard said.

Which is why prevention and education are key.

Not all brain injuries are preventable; some are caused by heart attack, stroke, or any situation that would deprive the brain of blood flow and/or oxygen.

Others are caused by a traumatic blow to the head, such as in a motor vehicle accident.

But some, such as a sports and recreation related fall or hit to the head, can be prevented in some cases.

“A helmet can reduce our chances of brain injury,” Havard said.

They do so by distributing the force around one’s skull and in many situations, the helmet will shatter before one’s skull does from force of impact.

“Our skull is about the width of three pennies, and it does crack, it will crack,” Havard said.

If the helmet is of a proper size and worn correctly, wearing a helmet reduces one’s chance of obtaining a brain injury by up to 85 per cent.

“A helmet definitely does have a purpose,” she affirms.

Tips on choosing a helmet begin with looking at the sport one is participating in. There are experts who have studied how one falls while riding a horse, how one hits their head while taking a hit during a game of hockey, how a fall on a bike would impact one’s head. These experts then design a helmet suitable for those purposes, Havard said.

Ensuring a helmet is properly fitted to the person wearing it is also key. Retailers in the valley have been really good with selling a helmet and adjusting them accordingly, Havard said. Often times they’ll adjust an old helmet that someone brings in for no charge as well, she said.

Finally, the wearer needs to make sure the chin strap is securely fastened.

“It really isn’t a helmet unless the chinstrap is secure because if they do … have a crash their helmet is going to be somewhere else by the time they hit the ground,” Havard said.

This is the message she takes to children around the valley in schools.

“It’s to convince them to wear a helmet and what the consequences of brain injury are,” Havard said. “I find they’re very interested about the brain as it’s very complex.”

People or groups in the valley who are interested in learning more, or who want support, can give the BVBIA a call at 250-877-7723 or check out their website at www.bvbia.ca.