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Most head injuries occur in road accidents

K.V. Prasad
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More often, the victim is a two-wheeler rider and not wearing a helmet

Some months ago, a final year engineering student is declared brain dead in a city hospital. He suffered a head injury in a road traffic accident. His family donates his organs and this gesture immortalises him. But, he need not have died at all, his college mates said. He died because he did not wear a helmet.

Hospitals that specialise in trauma care said on the eve of the World Head Injury Awareness Day (March 20) that almost all fatal cases of head injuries were sustained in road traffic accidents. In most of these cases, the victim was a two-wheeler rider and was not wearing helmet. The others included those who did not wear a seat belt in the car and hit their head on the steering wheel or on the dash board.

“It is wrong to even assume that if one drove a motorcycle very slowly, the head injury would not be fatal,” Chief Neurosurgeon at K.G. Hospital M. Natarajan said. “The acceleration force factor can deal a severe blow (see graphics),” he said.

Director of Orthopaedics and Spine Surgery at Ganga Hospital S. Rajasekaran said more than 1.6 lakh people died of head injuries suffered in road traffic accidents in the country last year. This amounted to one death every five minutes.

If not instantaneous death, traumatic brain injury could also lead to prolonged hospitalisation and ultimately severe short term and long term disabilities. The cost of treatment of head injuries was significantly higher than any other type of injury. Trauma is multi-layered. Trauma inflicted by head injuries not only affected the injured persons, but their families too – both financially and psychologically.

Use of helmets and regular use of seat belts would reduce instances of head injury significantly. Research had shown that wearing a helmet reduced the risk of severity of injuries by 72 per cent and decreased the likelihood of death by 39 per cent.

Dr. Rajasekaran said a study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences revealed that the risk of death and severe brain injury increased by more than two-fold without helmets. The risk of permanent neurological disability was increased by one to one-and-a-half times.

“In our country where 75 per cent of the vehicles are two-wheelers, helmet use must be enforced. Lack of political support and law enforcement are two important issues that are preventing greater use of helmets. This is unfortunate,” he said.

During his tenure as its President, the Indian Orthopaedic Association moved a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court, seeking among other accident preventive measures, the enforcement of helmet rule.

Ban on staff

Going an extra mile, our hospital has now decided not allow for work any two-wheeler riding staff member if he or she did not wear helmet. They would also lose the privilege for complete free treatment in the hospital in case of injury. “This has become necessary because, unfortunately in the last few years, some of our staff members did in such accidents,” Dr. Rajasekaran explained.

Dr. Natarajan felt that a person who survived a serious accident was the ‘best ambassador’ to spread awareness on prevention of head injuries. “We must promote safe riding of motorcycle with use of helmets.”

Chairman of K.G. Hospital G. Bakthavathsalam said such accidents occurred because of high speed and rash driving, drunk driving and also speaking on cell phone while driving. Head injuries are a man-made disaster and, therefore, are preventable.

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