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Release: Oct. 17, 2001

Public awareness, prevention key to reducing brain injury occurrence

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Each year, more than 750,000 Americans report an injury sustained while participating in recreational sports, with 82,000 of these incidents involving a traumatic brain injury. There is no doubt that the past 12 months have been the "Year of the Scooter," and recent findings on related injuries indicate an overwhelming need for increased prevention measures because of the toy's popularity.

The Directorate for Economic Analysis, a division of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), estimated scooter sales to total between two and five million units for the year 2000 – a dramatic increase from 1999's figures of virtually none. With the hike in sales, so comes the rise in injury and need for safety awareness.

The CPSC reports that from January 2000 through December 2000 there were roughly 40,500 emergency room-treated injuries associated with scooters. Most alarming is that the number of injuries is increasing dramatically. In just the first four months of 2001, the CPSC estimated that there were more than 36,000 emergency room scooter-related visits.

Scooter-related injuries actually surpassed in-line skating injuries for the first time ever in September 2000. About 85 percent of these injuries were to children under 15 years old and one-third of injuries in 2000 involved children age 8 and under. Two-thirds of all the scooter-related injuries were to males. During the first four months of 2001, CPSC reported eight scooter-related deaths, six of which were to children age 13 and under.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that proper helmet use while riding scooters could reduce the risk of injury by 85 percent. Overall, the use of helmets in all recreational activities prevent one death every day and one injury every four minutes.

"The message is simple for both children and adults," said Katherine Mathews, M.D., a pediatric neurologist in the Children's Hospital of Iowa at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. "If it has wheels and handlebars, wear a helmet."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that at least 1.5 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury annually. Currently, there are 5.3 million Americans living with a disability because of brain injury and the cost to society is estimated at $48.3 billion annually. The most common brain injury is a concussion and the CDC further estimates that there are roughly 300,000 sports-related concussions in the United States every year. Brain injuries cause more deaths than any other sports-related injury and account for 65 to 85 percent of all fatalities in football.

In Iowa, 543 people died from traumatic brain injuries from 1995 to 1997. The Brain Injury Association of Iowa reports that brain injuries are the leading cause of death among Iowans between the ages 1 and 44. A traumatic brain injury occurs in the state every four hours.

Each year, more Americans will experience brain injury than HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury combined. Despite staggering incidence rates, brain injury remains largely unseen by the American population while awareness and prevention are key to lowering occurrence. Safety measures are essential in preventing brain injuries.

Kenneth Follett, M.D., associate professor in the UI Department of Neurosurgery, stated, "Concussion is commonly overlooked and its effects are often underestimated. Even mild traumatic brain injury can have lifelong emotional, physical and financial outcomes. As a society, we need to understand the importance of prevention and awareness of all types of brain injury -- especially the most common, concussion."

Founded in 1980, the Brain Injury Association has 47 chartered state affiliates across the country with hundreds of local chapters and support groups. The mission of the Brain Injury Association is to create a better future through brain injury prevention, research, education and advocacy. For more information, visit or call the Family HelpLine toll free at (800) 444-6443.

Locally, the Brain Injury Association of Iowa-East Central Family and Survivor Support Group meets on the second Monday of every month at Zion Lutheran Church, 310 North Johnson St., in Iowa City from 7 to 9 p.m. For more information, contact Lori Lindberg at (319) 356-1658.

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