Brain Power

#LoveYourBrain, The Crash Reel Campaign

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A few weeks ago, BrainLine tweeted: “Join the #LoveYourBrain campaign.”

Twitter Convo LoveYrBrain 30 May 2013

I asked them what that was about, and @TheCrashReel replied that it’s a campaign to educate others about brain injury, concussion, and safety. There are a few of these kinds of awareness campaigns going on in Canada, the US, and other countries, but I was rather taken by the hashtag of this one. #LoveYourBrain. It’s so evocative, and it’s so counter to what we do. Our brains are what keep us alive. No brains, no life. Yet we treat our brains as if they were less important than our appendix. It’s okay to box the head, but not the body. Hockey fights are all about pounding the head and thus the brain. Television shows and books detail people being hit on the head, the jaw, the face as if a little time spent being woozy, shaking your head, losing consciousness, is no biggie.

We most definitely do not love our brains.

It’s time we did.

The tweeters behind @TheCrashReel account told me that the campaign is still in the works. They have begun with a YouTube playlist as a resource while they connect with organizations. The Twitter handle “@TheCrashReel” comes from the 2013 movie The Crash Reel about US snowboarder Kevin Pearce crashing during training for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and suffering a traumatic brain injury as a result. The director Lucy Walker followed him and his family as he began the grinding road of rehabilitation to reclaim his brain and his permanently altered life.

As is the case with football and hockey, this film and the #LoveYourBrain campaign that is coming out of it is grounded in sports. #LoveYourBrain is devoted to “spreading information and awareness of the risks of extreme sports and brain injuries/concussions.” (From The Crash Reel’s YouTube About page.) Yet it’s not sports but car crashes that are the bigger menace to our brains. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (PDF of their 31-page Analysis in Brief):

“Sports and recreational activities were the third leading cause of traumatic head injury admissions in Canada in 2003 – 2004.” (my emphasis)

Although 28% of head injuries in children that required hospital admission were from injuries due to sports and recreation, 39% were from car crashes, and 40% from falls. In adults, ages 20 to 60, the leading cause was car crashes. People older than 60 tended to get their head injuries from falling. We need to make the muscles, bones, and balance stronger in our older population!

But these statistics are for hospitalizations. What about concussions? The kind of brain injury that you don’t go to hospital for, maybe see your GP and go home and rest, whilst stupidly thinking, I’ll be better in a few weeks? In my admittedly brief search, I couldn’t find any. The Brain Injury Association of Canada (BIAC) writes:

“Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics for 2003 indicates that there were 222,260 victims. Detailed statistics on the number of neurological disease, disorders and injuries [include all those who suffered any visible injury or complained of pain following a road accident] are not readily available and requires more research. Being a new organization, we will work closely with provincial organizations, medical institutions and governments to collect data to be converted into reliable statistics for Canada in the future.”

But those stats that the BIAC are going to try and document would not include ones for sports and recreation or falls. According to the Brain Injury Association of Waterloo – Wellington, close to 4% of all Canadians are living with a brain injury. That is way too many Canadians. And 20% of sports-related injuries are from concussion. The Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST) also has a page of stats with links, one of the more concerning being that over half of the homeless population have a traumatic brain injury.

If you have the time to hunt, you’ll see that various organizations in different countries and regions, different health organizations, are all working independently of each other to gather statistics or report on what others wrote, to launch their own awareness campaigns, and to talk to the affected. BIST, the organization I belong to, hosts a brain injury awareness event every June at Nathan Phillips Square (Toronto City Hall), which I attended one year. But I did wonder how many people went home going, “hmmm…I need to think more about this topic, learn more, and change my attitude toward brain injury.”

BIST Awareness Event

The World Health Organization notes on their neurotrauma page:

“many countries need to develop surveillance systems and conduct epidemiologic studies to measure the impact of neurotrauma among their people to guide the development of more effective preventive methods”

And I’d add treatment methods.

Because of football in the US and hockey in Canada, concussion as a serious problem is starting to make headway into the minds of ordinary people who haven’t had a brain injury or don’t think much about the people they know who do, for let’s face it, how many of us with brain injury retain any sort of regular contact with people who knew us pre-injury after the first couple of years, the years I call the honeymoon period in my book Concussion Is Brain Injury? Not many. And when those people leave us, I bet it’s out of sight, out of mind for them when it comes to brain injury.

Only a societal shift and a sustained awareness campaign across the spectrum of regions and continents, like the drunk driving campaigns, will make the change we need to see.

Right now there are too many cooks boiling too many pots of campaigns. We need a concerted, co-ordinated effort by all involved. I like the #LoveYourBrain moniker as the name that could link all the campaigns. It’s one I can get behind.

Brain Power

Brainline.org on Five Members of a Club No One Wants to Belong to

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Groucho Marx got a lot of laughs for saying that he’d never want to be a member of a club that would accept him as a member.” (Katherine Wise)

So begins the brainline.org article Brain injury Blogs: Voices from People Living with Traumatic Brain Injury about five bloggers, including me (!), whom they declare as being the people to read “if you are searching for encouragement, advice, or information from an authentic source.” All I can say is I agree with Groucho: this club of people with brain injuries — invisible injuries many deny to boot — is not one I would volunteer to join. But it sure is nice being tagged as a blogger to go to for encouragement and information.

I encourage you to check out Wise’s piece. And even if you don’t have a brain injury or know a person with one, you may find the stories of my four fellow bloggers interesting. One thing I noticed — we were all injured by (words removed for polite ears) drivers. A red-light runner, a truck rear-ender, a double-rear-ender with a push forward into fourth car (me), car crash, drinking and driving. Four sober, one drunk. There’s a message in that, methinks.

News

I’m on BrainLine!

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Brainline.org is one of the best brain injury information websites out there that also has a Twitter feed and Facebook page. A multimedia project between the Seattle PBS station WETA and Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (many veterans return home with concussive brain injuries), BrainLine offers videos, articles, widgets on all sorts of brain-injury related subjects from the bascis like a video on what my kind of brain injury is (mild traumatic brain injuries are hardly discussed usually except for reports on the latest hockey concussion) to scientific articles to personal stories to videos on every kind of related subject from social relationships to work. It’s for those with the injuries, their family and friends, professionals, or those who are just interested. It’s easy to navigate too. It always amazes me that some brain-injury websites are so hard to read and navigate. I often wonder if they think people with brain injuries would never read their sites because, you know, us injured people are too vegetative and stupid to do that and would rely on others to do it for us.

Anyway, BrainLine asked me to contribute to their site! Right out of the blue, I received an email asking permission to reprint four of my articles — from the personal to my research on how brain injury can affect diabetes, the heart, and internal functioning — that I’d published on this website and also offering to publish a page on me with links back to jeejeebhoy.ca. Wow! What an honour. I said yes, of course. I hope I recognize an opportunity when I see one.

Please go check out my new BrainLine page and my articles. And let me know what you think!

Internet and Computers

brainline.org Wins a Freddie

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The Freddie Awards were born of the notion by one man that “I can do better than that” and another man challenging him to do just that. Over 30 years later, that challenge has become a film festival that attracts hundreds of entries from around the world, showcasing medical films and websites. This year, brainline.org won the 2009 Freddie for best medical website.

I first found brainline.org via Twitter. Actually, they probably found me, then I checked out who was following me, and I was so impressed with their website and their tweets, I followed them (this is my usual procedure for finding people on Twitter). Their website is laid out so even people like me who get easily distracted by visual clutter and then quickly tune out, can navigate it. So often brain-injury-focussed websites are impossible for the brain injured — or me anyway — to navigate, to read, and to use. Not brainline. This may be because PBS runs it. Being familiar with how a visual medium works, WETA knows how to design for their audience.

Beyond the aesthetics though, they have loads of useful information, just like a PBS station would. They not only have research articles with relevant links to how-to articles or ask-the-expert columns, but they also have videos with experts from not just the US, but Canada as well. They have content for brain injury survivors, family and friends of survivors, and professionals. Their content is good content, not the usual blah blah blah BS I normally come across. They also mention closed head injuries, the kind of brain injury usually lost in the slew of content about coma-inducing brain injuries that many brain injury or medical websites seem to show as the only ones that count. And so it doesn’t surprise me that brainline has won the Freddie for best website. It is the first and only website I would recommend to anyone who wants to know more about brain injuries.