Wheelchair Falls Resulting in Concussions

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My articles are usually chats on becoming FIT AND FABULOUS but I wanted to expand on a question asked earlier and further discuss CONCUSSIONS and WHEELCHAIR FALLS.  Concussions in general have been in the forefront of Sports Medicine lately with the increase of head injuries in football and soccer alike.  No longer is this type of injury “accepted” as part of performing sports; experts are looking at this phenomenon from a different angle now.  Sitting in a wheelchair on a daily basis increases our chances of a fall, where we may strike our head, which results in subsequently a head injury or concussion.  It’s a fact of our life-but should not be ignored!  Why else would the rehab team train us how to protect our noggins in case of a fall?  I KNOW it has happened to all of us and if you are one of the lucky ones that hasn’t experienced a fall yet…you will.

Being in a wheelchair for five years now, I have experienced two major falls while seat-belted in my chair, once backwards onto a concrete tiled floor resulting in a huge goose egg on the back of my head and once on the aggregate driveway of my home resulting in a scraped up face.  You all remember the Looney Tunes cartoons when the character is bopped on his head and stars circle around him? That’s what it feels like. But this topic is no laughing matter. When a tumble results in knocking our brains around in our heads a concussion may occur.

A CONCUSSION is a type of injury to the brain caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head that can change the way your brain normally works. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth. Health care professionals may describe a concussion as a “mild” brain injury because concussions are usually not life-threatening. Even so, their effects can be serious.

Symptoms of a concussion fit into four main categories:

THINKING AND REMEMBERING

      • Not thinking clearly
      • Feeling slowed down
      • Not being able to concentrate
      • Not being able to remember new information

PHYSICAL

      • Headache
      • Fuzzy or blurry vision
      • Nausea and vomiting
      • Dizziness
      • Sensitivity to light or noise
      • Balance problems (may be difficult to assess sitting in a wheelchair)
      • Feeling tired or having no energy

EMOTIONAL AND MOOD

      • Easily upset or angered
      • Sad
      • Nervous or anxious
      • More emotional

SLEEP

      • Sleeping more than usual
      • Sleeping less than usual
      • Having a hard time falling asleep

Concussions are usually diagnosed by a healthcare professional performing a thorough examination, a battery of neurological questions, and possibly a MRI or CT scan to confirm no bleeding into the brain or bruising.   Post-concussion care may result in hospitalization for observation.

 

CALL A DOCTOR OR SEEK EMERGENCY CARE RIGHT AWAY AFTER A DIAGNOSIS OF A CONCUSSION IF YOU EXPERIENCE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING SYMPTOMS:

      • A headache that gets worse or does not go away.
      • Weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination.
      • Repeated vomiting or nausea.
      • Slurred speech.
      • Extreme drowsiness.
      • One pupil that is larger than the other.
      • Convulsions or seizures.
      • A problem recognizing people or places.
      • Increasing confusion, restlessness, or agitation.
      • Loss of consciousness.

One other piece of information I share being a Registered Nurse is to invest in a blood pressure (BP) cuff, know how to use it, and know your normal blood pressure.  Normal BPs are usually around 120/70.  140/90 or higher CONSISTENTLY, is considered high blood pressure.  I have a cuff that fits on my wrist; you know the ones doctors’ offices are using more and more now. These types of BP cuffs are not expensive, they seem very accurate, and they can be used independently.  This is my nursing advice……now listen or read closely……WE SHOULD ALL HAVE A BP CUFF AT OUR DISPOSAL DUE TO AUTONOMIC DYSREFLEXIA SYMPTOMS!!  Wheelchairs falls are a very good reason to take a BP.  Now if you take your BP immediately after a fall, don’t be alarmed if it is elevated BUT, and this is a big BUT…..IF IT REMAINS ELEVATED, then that is NOT normal.  Seek medical advice.

This article is written with the bullet points as an easy to review informational guide.  My hope is in case of emergency, this information would be in a central location, easy to find.  When a head injury occurs that is not the time to Google “head injury symptoms,” so I purposely listed the signs and symptoms as I did.

FINAL ADVICE: falls from our wheelchairs are nothing to take lightly and prompt medical attention should be received upon a fall.  We all remember Sonny Bono, Natasha Richardson, Michael Schumacher – they all sustained a blow to their heads that resulted in a head injury and either subsequently died or they are dealing with the injury and they were not in wheelchairs. Head injuries and concussions are nothing to take lightly. Healing or recovering from a concussion takes time. It may take days to weeks, or maybe even months. So, let’s all be safe out there to maintain our FIT and FABULOUS wheelchair bodies.

References:

Concussion – Overview.  Obtained August 21, 2014 from http://www.webmd.com/brain/tc/traumatic-brain-injury-concussion-overview.

The Rollin RN, Patty Kunze, RNC, BSN

Patty has been a Nurse for 31 years, since 1983. She actually worked for two years prior to her spinal cord injury (SCI) in the SCI Unit at the Veterans Hospita,l working with new injuries. She then transferred to neonatal intensive care and ultimately to education of students in nursing.

Patty, The Rolling RN, Is A Regular Contributor To PUSHLiving

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