HomeHealth TopicNeurological
02:10

How to Reduce Your Risk of Concussions + Traumatic Brain Injuries

In this video, Steven Flanagan, MD, shares what causes a traumatic brain injury and how to minimize your risk.

Lauren Smith, MAPreeti Parikh, MD
Written by Lauren Smith, MA | Reviewed by Preeti Parikh, MD
Published on March 18, 2020

Nobody wants to have a concussion, officially known as a mild traumatic brain injury. While many people want to know how they can prevent one, the problem is that most concussions are accidents, so prevention strategies can only go so far.

“There's no absolute way to stop all concussions,” admits Steven Flanagan, MD, chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Langone Health. In fact, the top three causes of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are falling, being hit by an object, and car crashes—and often these things are completely out of your control.

However, you can certainly minimize your risk of having these types of accidents that cause concussions: It all comes down to common-sense precautions.

Following these tips could help lower your risk of TBIs:

1. Wear a helmet

Helmets should always be worn when using a bike, motorcycle, skateboard, etc., or when playing contact sports. Make sure the helmet fits well, and that you are wearing the helmet properly.

Keep in mind that helmets don’t completely eliminate the risk of concussions, but they do help reduce the risk of severe TBIs, which tend to come with skull fractures, bleeding, and other structural injuries. “It's the brain moving inside of the skull that actually causes a concussion, and a helmet will not prevent that from happening,” says Dr. Flanagan.

2. Always wear your seat belt when driving or riding in motor vehicles

Even if you prize yourself on being a defensive driver, accidents happen. Wearing a seat belt reduces the chances you’ll hit your head (on the steering wheel, for example) or be thrown from the car.

3. Avoid excessive risk-taking

Trying the “black diamond” slope the first time you go skiing? Riding an untrained horse on a steep, cliffside trail without a helmet? Driving 30 MPH over the speed limit on the way to the airport during a snowstorm? These are not great ideas, to put it mildly, and they all increase your risk of getting into accidents that could result in a concussion (and more).

4. Make sure your coaches + trainers are educated

Preventing a concussion is one thing, “but I think what's equally important is to be able to identify concussions when they happen,” says Dr. Flanagan, “because if you miss a concussion, [such as] in a sporting event, you could mistakenly send somebody back in, and if they've had a concussion, their balance [and] their reaction times may be off. You're setting them up for another concussion.”

Furthermore, recognizing a concussion right away can help the athlete get seen by a medical professional sooner, which may improve recovery time.

 “It's just a lot of common sense, and being careful and cautious,” says Dr. Flanagan. “There's a lot of value to playing sports, and there's a lot of value to exercising, and getting out on a bicycle and skiing … so you don't want to stop that, but use caution.”

Additional Medical Contributors
  • Steven Flanagan, MDDr. Flanagan is the chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Langone Health. He specializes in brain injury rehabilitation.

    References

    HEADS UP: responding to a concussion and action plan for coaches. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on March 9, 2020 at https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/basics/concussion_respondingto.html.)

    Management of acute moderate and severe traumatic brain injury. Waltham, MA: UpToDate, 2020. (Accessed on March 7, 2020 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/management-of-acute-moderate-and-severe-traumatic-brain-injury.)

    View All References (2)

    Traumatic brain injury and concussion: prevention. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on March 9, 2020 at https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/prevention.html.)

    Traumatic brain injury: epidemiology, classification, and pathophysiology. Waltham, MA: UpToDate, 2020. (Accessed on March 9, 2020 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/traumatic-brain-injury-epidemiology-classification-and-pathophysiology.)

    GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

    Was this page helpful?

    Subscribe and save.Get prescription saving tips and more from GoodRx Health. Enter your email to sign up.
    By signing up, I agree to GoodRx's Terms and Privacy Policy, and to receive marketing messages from GoodRx.

    Wordmark logo (w/ dimension values)
    GoodRx FacebookGoodRx InstagramGoodRx Twitter
    Legitscript ApprovedPharmacyBBB Accredited Business
    provider image
    Welcome! You’re in GoodRx Provider Mode. Now, you’ll enjoy a streamlined experience created specifically for healthcare providers.