Preventing Traumatic Brain Injury

Preventing traumatic brain injury can keep your family safe. Learn more about the risk of TBIs and how to take precautions to prevent them.

Preventing Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injuries range from mild concussions to severe permanent physical and cognitive injuries that require multi-faceted therapeutic intervention. A traumatic brain injury (or TBI) can happen in an instant, but it can have life-altering consequences for the victim and their family. Preventing TBIs can be crucial, particularly if you or a family member is at risk.



Those at risk include the very young and the very old—children up to the age of four are at particular risk, as are senior citizens. Also at high risk are active young people from the ages of 15 to 24. In every age group, males are at greater risk than females. Events that may cause traumatic brain injury include:

  • Falls. Anyone can experience an unintentional fall, but older adults and young children are at particular risk. These types of falls often happen down stairs, from a bed, from a ladder, or in the bathtub, and falls from playground equipment are common for children as well. One in every five falls results in a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury, and three-quarters of those require hospital admission.

  • Vehicle Accidents. Falls and motor vehicle accidents are the two major causes of traumatic brain injury in North America. Collisions involving any kind of vehicle—car, motorcycle, bicycle, ATV, snowmobile—often cause serious traumatic brain injuries resulting in persistent symptoms that are more difficult to treat.

  • Violence. Unfortunately, violence also causes a percentage of TBI cases. Domestic violence and child abuse fall into this category, including “shaken baby syndrome.” Assaults, including assaults with weapons or objects can result in brain injuries, and, of course, gunshot wounds can cause great damage to the brain.

  • Sports Injuries. Sports-related TBIs are common among teenagers and young adults, and the rise in popularity of high-impact and extreme sports has led to more and more of these injuries in recent years. Traumatic brain injury may result from a number of activities, including sports such as boxing, hockey, football, skiing, soccer, baseball, skateboarding, lacrosse, rugby, as well as recreational activities like parkour, skydiving, parasailing, ziplining, mountain climbing, and more. And don’t forget to be careful when watching sports—a significant number of brain injuries happen when people fall from bleacher-type seating at sports events.

  • Combat Injuries. Active-duty military personnel are at a high risk for TBI, due to the prevalence of explosives. An explosive blast alone can cause a brain injury, along with the possibility of falls or collision that can follow an explosion, and the danger of shrapnel or falling debris.

Be Safe!

There are some simple ways that you can help to cut your risk of experiencing a traumatic brain injury. Here are a few of them:

  • Buckle up! Always wear a seatbelt when you drive or ride in a motor vehicle, and ensure that child car seats are properly installed, or that children who need booster seats are using them correctly.

  • Never drink and drive. Alcohol or drug use is a contributing factor in more than one-quarter of motor vehicle accidents in Canada. Never, never drive after using drugs or alcohol.

  • Wear a helmet. Make sure that you and your children have appropriate helmets for risky activities, including bicycling or using a vehicle such as a motorcycle, snowmobile, or all-terrain vehicle. Make sure to use the correct helmet for sports such as: skiing, skating, horseback riding, skateboarding, baseball, boxing, football, hockey, or boxing.

  • Reduce falling risk. Older adults should take steps to prevent falls. These might include talking to your doctor about your risk for a fall and asking for medical advice; monitoring whether any of your medications make you sleepy or dizzy, and seeing if alternatives can be found; having your eyes checked at least once a year and wearing appropriate eyeglasses. You can also do strength and balance exercises to improve your physical capabilities. And you can make your home safer by getting rid of tripping hazards such as throw rugs, as well as wearing proper footwear in the house and outside, particularly in winter.
  • Improve safety for children. Make sure that any playground equipment your children play on has soft material under it. In your own home, install window guards to keep young children from falling out of windows, and use safety gates at the top and the bottom of stairs.

Each year in Ontario, more than 12,000 people suffer disabling traumatic brain injuries. Since the brain is our “control centre,” a brain injury can result in a wide variety of physical, cognitive, and behavioural changes. A TBI can cause long-term symptoms including pain, depression, impairment of hearing or sight, paralysis, difficulty with memory and information processing, impaired judgement, and lack of emotional control. A brain injury can impact the victim’s career, family relationships, and social life.

Stay safe! Take precautions to prevent traumatic brain injuries for you and your family members.