A recent study*, published in JAMMA Psychiatry, shows that injuries to the head can lead to early death, even long after the injury has occurred. The study, which analyses and uses information from 40 years of research and data collection, offers a new look at how head injuries can have long-lasting effects.
Researchers from the University of Oxford and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm found that brain injuries are also more damaging to people who had a history of psychiatric disorders before the injury occurred.
What the Study Shows
Scientists studied the effects head injuries had on patients who survived longer than six months after the injury. For the study, the researchers defined “premature death” as passing away before the age of 56.
The research revealed that without a head injury, about 0.2% of people passed away prematurely, but that number was three times higher for groups of people who sustained serious head or brain injuries. For those that had a psychiatric disorder, the premature death rate was four percent.
What is causing premature death for people with brain injuries? The research shows that the most common causes were suffering fatal injuries, becoming a victim of an assault or suicide. The researchers believe that a head injury causes irreversible damage to the brain, which decreases a person’s ability to deal with new situations, which can lead to premature death.
What You Should Know
Knowing the results of the study, we know even more now how important it is to protect your head while working, riding a bike, participating in contact sports, working on projects at home or working on a construction site.
Head safety has always been extremely important, but now that it has been proven that head injuries can have long-lasting effects, it’s even more important to wear a helmet or hard hat to protect yourself, avoiding both short and long-term injuries.
Head injuries have a number of symptoms, and can lead to dozens of health problems, including:
• Memory Loss
• Sleep Disturbance
• Sensitivity to Light
• Decreased Blood Pressure
• Hearing Problems
• Vision Problems
• Impaired Smell or Taste
• Stiff Neck
These are just a few of the things a head injury can lead to, and if you have any of these symptoms, or have been in accident or injured your head, you should see a doctor right away.
Protecting Your Head
The best way to prevent these symptoms, and long-lasting effects, is to protect your head. Use proper safety precautions when working with heavy equipment or on a project that could have flying debris. But, even when you are careful, accidents do happen.
Whenever you work on a home, garden or construction project, wear proper protective head gear. In fact, in some areas it is against the law to be on a construction site without wearing a hard hat.
Even if you don’t think you will be working for very long, or even if the project doesn’t seem very dangerous, always protect your head if you are near objects that could fall or debris that could hit your body. Wearing a hard hat is especially important when you work with things like hydraulic breakers, hammer drills and chipping hammers.
Read and download our safety guide for working at height! www.hss.com/imagshop/guides/ds_3t.pdf
Choose the Right Hard Hat
Not all hard hats are created equally, and choosing the right one could mean the difference between protecting your head and sustaining a serious injury. There are actually two different kinds of hard hats: the first is designed to protect you from blows to the top of the head, and the second from blows to the side. Use the right hard hat for your project and situation.
Choose a hat that fits you perfectly and has adjustable bands. You may not realise it, but the space between your head and the hat is important, as it helps absorb the shock if you sustain a blow to the head. So, choose a hat that allows you to adjust the straps to leave room between your head and the hat.
Maintain Your Hard Hat
Keep your hat in top condition so it will provide maximum protection. You can clean the hat with warm water and soap, and most models of straps and suspension systems can also be washed.
You can replace broken straps and suspension systems, but if replacing them doesn’t restore the hat to its original state, so that it provides the best protection possible, you should replace the entire hat.
Know When to Retire a Hard Hat
If your hard hat is ever damaged, do not use it. If you do sustain a hit on the head while wearing the hat, it is best to stop using it, as it could be damaged. Other signs that it is time to retire a hard hat include cracks, worn spots, brittle materials, broken suspension mounts or broken straps.
In short, if your hat is in less than perfect condition, don’t risk it. It is worth the investment to buy a new hat that you can be confident will protect your head.
This recent study is the latest reminder that head protection is important, especially for home, garden and construction projects. As you plan your next project, plan for safety and wear a hard hat as you work.
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* Find out more on BBC’s website.
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