Warmer weather is upon us which usually means the Fort Rucker population will soon be heading outdoors to partake in all sorts of activities, ranging from a simple playground visit, sports or an evening motorcycle ride.

March is brain injury awareness month, so now is the time to become more aware of the causes, symptoms and prevention of traumatic brain injuries.

Lyster Army Health Clinic will be supporting Brain Injury Awareness Month throughout the month of March at locations around Fort Rucker.

What exactly is a traumatic brain injury? A traumatic brain injury (TBI), also known as a concussion, is an injury to the head that disrupts an individual's normal brain function. TBIs are a very serious matter and contribute substantially to the annual number deaths and permanent disability in the United States.

Events ranging from a bump or jolt to penetrating head trauma can cause a TBI, though not every head injury may lead to one. Most people with TBIs experience full recovery, but more severe cases can leave people with symptoms for days, weeks or longer, specifically in the very young and old populations.

Common symptoms of TBIs include difficulty concentrating, decreased mental acuity, headache, nausea, fatigue and sleep disruptions. Some symptoms may appear right away, while others may not be noticed for days or months after the injury. Contact your physician if you have experienced a head injury and have a headache that gets worse or does not go away, repeated vomiting or nausea, slurred speech, or a decrease in physical strength and coordination.

In rare cases, a dangerous blood clot may form in the brain during a TBI and prompt treatment is crucial to the overall severity and outcome of the individual. Seek medical help immediately if you or someone else with a head injury begins to display the following symptoms: loss of consciousness (even briefly), extreme drowsiness or inability to awaken, display asymmetrical pupils, convulsions/seizures, or are exhibiting unusual behavior such as confusion, restlessness, or agitation. If an infant or child has experienced a bump or blow to head and is showing any of the above symptoms, will not stop crying, or refuses to nurse or eat, seek medical attention immediately.

What can we do to help prevent TBIs? There are many safe measures you can take to protect yourself and others from injury. When in an automobile, always wear a seatbelt and use the proper seat restraint for children, and never drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. During outdoor sports and activities such as riding a bike or playing a contact sport, always ensure children wear a helmet. For seniors, create a safe environment by using non-slip mats and grab bars in showers, installing handrails on stairways and keeping the home well-lit.

Maintaining a regular physical activity program as approved by a medical professional is also an excellent way to improve lower body strength and balance to protect against falls. For children, make living areas safer by installing window guards and using safety gates at both the top and bottom of staircases. Also, ensure the surface of your child's playground is shock absorbent with materials such as mulch or sand.

With proper awareness of causes, signs and symptoms, we can properly identify and quickly treat TBIs that could otherwise potentially lead to a lifetime of injury and disability.

Find time to educate yourself and your loved ones by picking up an information pamphlet from LAHC representatives at one of the display booths in the clinic, commissary, PX or Fort Rucker Physical Fitness Center.