The Importance of PLAY(S)

Children generally have more physical energy than their adult counterparts. As a consequence, many participate in youth sports leagues, which not only provide physical activity, but also teach them to work effectively with their peers.  Last year, Senator Capito (WV) proposed Senate Resolution 227 which marked July 16 – 22 as National Youth Sports Week.  According to the bill, the week is, “a celebration of youth sports participation and all of the benefits youth derive from engagement in sports.”

In 2018, “[this] week… thousands of youth sports coaches, athletic directors, recreation directors, association members, sponsors, young athletes, and parents across the country show their support focusing on P.L.A.Y.S. ~ Physical activity, Living healthy, Access, Youth development, Safety.”  While having access to the physical activity and youth development provided by sports, which is a key part of healthy living, is important, the S (safety) should always be included in the celebration.

***The bones of children are still in development and, therefore, weaker.  Additionally, the coating of myelin, neuron fibers, in the brain of youth is still in development.  Because of this, physical injury, including skull injury, is more common and more severe in children, than in adults.  Particularly this can be found in sports, most notably in youth football, youth hockey and youth soccer, but the risk is present in all sports.  (For example, this month, the CDC published an article that identifies brain infection/injury as a rare, but possible result of fresh water swimming.)  Additionally, beyond physical safety, sports may affect the brain psychologically, but this affect can also be positive.  New Jersey, among other states, has a youth sports concussion law, “to help reduce the risk of student-athletes suffering concussion, and its long-term consequences.”  Included as a possible long-tern consequence is a traumatic brain injury.

Advertisements

May is… National Stroke Awareness Month. Join the conversation!

A stroke, the stop of blood flow to the brain, is a common brain injury: occurring every 40 seconds in America.  While strokes are more common in the 65+ age range, they can happen to anyone and at any time.  By Presidential Proclamation, National Stroke Awareness Month has been recognized in May since 1989, as a time to explain the symptoms of stroke, which requires immediate medical help, and to highlight ways of stroke prevention.

“In observance of National Stroke Awareness Month, NINDS (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke), Million Hearts, American Academy of Neurology (AAN), and the American Stroke Association are co-hosting a Twitter chat to discuss stroke risk factors, the importance of keeping your brain healthy, and the latest stroke research. #BrainforLife will take place Wednesday, May 2, from 1-2 p.m. ET.  Medical experts, including NINDS Director Dr. Walter Koroshetz and AAN President Dr. Ralph L. Sacco, will be on hand to answer questions.”

Brain Injury Awareness Month Across the Country: State Recognition

Brain injury has been an ongoing issue in America since its founding.  Though federally honored, BIAM is still finding legislative recognition on the state level.  For example, House Resolution 741 (HR 741), introduced by Pennsylvania’s Tina Pickett, was only introduced earlier this month and adopted (188-0) on March 14.  A similar bill will soon be voted on in the PA Senate.  (Though this marks the official recognition of the Month, the State has honored and provided education on brain injury at least since 2011.)  In 2013, New Jersey officially recognized it as a month-long state observance, whereas legislators in Alaska were relatively early adopters, passing a law to recognize the Month back in the 2007 – 2008 Congressional year.  (Some states still do not officially note Brain Injury Awareness Month.  However, groups in these states, such as the BIAA, do provide events specifically designed for the Month.)

As for events, New York State, in Tonawanda, located near Niagara Falls, lights the City Hall blue for the entire month to show solidarity and the need for public education on brain injury.  (Blue is the official color of Brain Injury Awareness Month, as designated by the Brain Injury Association of America.) On Brian Injury Advocacy Day, March 20, survivors/advocates met with members of the New York State Legislature to thank legislators for what they have done thus far and to teach them about the impact of brain injury, including how they can further help prevent it, as well as support those with brain injury.  While some legislators may have been tempted by the promise of pie, Kansas legislators and lawmakers met at the Topeka State House on March 21 to learn more about brain injury.  The Nebraska Brain Injury Advisory Council, which is sponsored by the Nebraska Department of Education, launched a mobile-responsive website that, “presents resources and reference information for anyone affected to assist in navigating for the best possible outcome.”

The above is just a short representation of activities throughout the country related to Brain Injury Awareness Month.  Please search online to find more past and upcoming local events.

Brain Injury Awareness Month Across the Country: Capitol Hill

Brain injury affects America as a whole, and its importance should be recognized on Capitol Hill.  As part of this national recognition, on March 5, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders introduced Retired Marine Corps Sergeant John Peck to the press.   Peck’s story is remarkable and therefore must be noted in its entirety: “Sergeant Peck suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq during his first tour of duty.  Then, after two years of therapy, he re-enlisted and deployed to Afghanistan.  While there, he stepped on an IED and lost both arms and legs.  He spent two years at Walter Reed, and in 2016 received a double arm transplant.  He is now doing physical and occupational therapy at Walter Reed, and doing incredibly well.”

Earlier this week, our legislators further honored brain injured Americans at Brain Injury Awareness Day, which is always honored on Capitol Hill during Brain Injury Awareness Month.  Generally, from what I can determine, the day is simply associated with Brain Injury Awareness Month and, therefore, in March.  However, Brain Injury Awareness Day is not honored on a specific calendar day.  (For example, in 2017 it was on Wednesday, March 22.  This year it was on March 20.)  The point of the day, though, is unchanging: to increase knowledge and awareness of brain injury with our elected officials.

As noted in an earlier article, the theme of 2018 Brain Injury Awareness Month is Change Your MindScheduled by the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, co-chaired by Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ) and Thomas J. Rooney (FL), the events this past Tuesday were a Brain Injury Awareness fair, a Congressional briefing and a reception celebrating Brain Injury Awareness Month.

When I can find the audio of the Capitol Hill Congressional briefing, I will post it on this site.  Additionally, as I find state events honoring the month, I will post them.

2018 Brain Injury Awareness Month

This month, March 2018, Americans recognize Brain Injury Awareness Month.  The theme for this year, through 2020, is Change Your Mind.  The significance of this theme is to show the ongoing public awareness campaign to provide, “a platform for educating the general public about the incidence of brain injury and the needs of people with brain injuries and their families.”  Many posters and webpages note the statistics, commonality and horror of brain injury in the United States.  Yes, as the Brain Injury Association of America notes, “Brain injury changes the way you think, act, move and feel.”  However, in some ways, for the better.  In this sense, part of what the BIAA is seeking to do is de-stigmatization.  (The theme for 2015 to 2017, #NotAlone, is still very apropos.) Search on Twitter or use the hangtags #ChangeYourMind, #BrainInjuryAwarenessMonth or simply #braininjury.

Note: From what I can find, Brain Injury Awareness Month is not a federally designated month.  However, “the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Brain Injury Association of America recognize March as Brain Injury Awareness month to increase awareness of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).”  Additionally, the month has been legally designated by many states.  New Jersey, for example, signed into law Section 36:2-87, to mark March as Brain Injury Awareness Month, in 2013.

#GivingTuesday

What do you do with all the cash you saved on Black Friday and Cyber Monday?  Well, 6 years ago #GivingTuesday was officially introduced.  (The hashtag in the name is a clear indication that the global day of giving was instigated on social media and peoples’ desire to help.)  On the day’s website, one can find most of the charities/non-profits in their area.  Though all the listed charities/non-profits are well-deserving of support, specifically related to brain injury, there are links to the Brain Injury Alliances in various states and other charities, nonprofits and hospitals that help the brain injured.  (One foundation that is not found in the search, but is well-worth donated to, especially for those residing in the North New Jersey area, is the Kessler Foundation.)

November 11th – Veterans Day

November 11 is a day to celebrate and honor the millions of Americans, of all races and genders, who served this country with honor as veterans of the US military – today is Veterans Day!  It is time to recognize the veterans who are living with the “signature wound” of more recent wars: traumatic brain injury and often the co-occurring post-traumatic stress disorder.  These men and women fight on the battlefield for the citizens of the United States and now fight for their health and/or equality back at home.  (Visit the articles links or click the Government/Military link on the right side of this page to find more information about veterans and TBI.)

“Inclusion Drives Innovation” Throughout America

In addition to the President, “26 governors have joined together to show their support [for employment of disabled workers] through public proclamations, executive orders and press statements.”  Brain injury is a non-partisan issue that affects individuals from all states.  Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) noted the importance of informing the public of the skills of the disabled population this month because, “people with disabilities offer a wide range of expertise and play an integral role in our efforts to build an inclusive community and strong economy.” (Read to view Arkansas’ NDEAM events.)  Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA) released a video to explain to his constituents the importance of the month, saying that, “our businesses and communities can greatly benefit from the integrated, competitive employment of persons with disabilities.”

Even in states that do not officially recognize NDEAM with government-sanctioned events, they still inform their citizens of brain injury and celebrate the contributions of brain injury survivors.  The Kessler Foundation in East Hanover, NJ, for example, awarded a $265,743 Grant to the University of New Hampshire on October 10, 2017, to conduct, “the first national survey to look at the effectiveness of the practices that employers use to recruit, hire, train, and retain people with disabilities in their organizations, from the unique perspective of supervisors of employees with and without disabilities.”  The article 26 Governors Celebrate Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities, from which the opening quote in this article is taken, may not have it listed as a state that is honoring NDEAM, but the California Department of Rehabilitation had an open house on October 18, 2017 to inform employers on, “the various ways to create a diverse workforce that includes persons with disabilities.”

2017 NDEAM: Inclusion Drives Innovation

This past month has been a time of, “reflecting [on] the important role that different perspectives play in workforce success,” as October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  This year, President Trump issued a proclamation to honor NDEAM in which he recognized that, “every American who is willing and able to work should have the opportunity… this includes the 30 million American adults with disabilities.”  Statistically, it is unfortunate to see that NDEAM has not had enough of an effect in its 70+ years of existence.  According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for disabled Americans has risen, from 18.1 percent in September 2016 to 19.6 percent this September.  However, this is still far below the employment rate for non-disabled Americans, which was 65.5 percent in September 2016 and 66 percent this year.

President Trump referred to the above statistic, when he said that, “more employers should recognize the fresh perspectives and skills these men and women can add to an innovation-focused workforce.”  Reflecting this statement, in 2017, the theme of NDEAM has been “Inclusion Drives Innovation“.

June is… National Aphasia Awareness Month

The National Institute of Health defines aphasia as, “a disorder that results from damage to portions of the brain that are responsible for language… The disorder impairs the expression and understanding of language as well as reading and writing. Aphasia may co-occur with speech disorders, such as dysarthria or apraxia of speech, which also result from brain damage.”  Brain damage is, of course, the defining effect of a traumatic brain injury and other neurological disorders.

The United States government has designated June as National Aphasia Awareness Month.  The subtitle of an article from yesterday’s Huffington Post states what I see as the main purpose of the Month: “Just because you have word-finding problems does not mean you have diminished intelligence!”  Educating the public is the key to Aphasia Awareness, so that those who have a neurological disorder and those who know an individual who has a neurological disorder recognize that their innate intelligence is still very much present.