If you’ve just been in a car wreck or hit your head, one of the most important things you can do is grab a snack. Preferably as you’re on your way to get medical attention. The Institute of Medicine recently released a report showing that after head trauma, you need to eat a lot of protein within 24 hours. This can reduce your chances of death (mortality) and your chances of ongoing problems or complications (morbidity), particularly in serious injuries. The calories and protein give your body and mind the fuel they need to heal and that first 24 hour period is critical. Balanced blood sugar is also important, so avoid sugary snacks for a bit. You should keep focusing on getting more protein than normal for at least two weeks after the injury.
The Institute’s research focused on military personnel in combat zones, but the same principles are true for any kind of concussion, including injuries from auto accidents, even sports injuries.
Traumatic brain injuries (or TBI) can range from mild to severe. The report indicates that concussions (mild traumatic brain injuries) account for more than 75% of civilian traumatic brain injuries every year. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that “it is clear that the consequences of [mild traumatic brain injury] are often not mild.” What the CDC means is that a mild traumatic brain injury is described as mild because of the amount of force that caused it—not the consequences of the injury.
The CDC defines mild traumatic brain injury as a result from a blunt trauma injury to the head or injury to the head because of acceleration or deceleration forces (meaning the head does not necessarily have to hit anything to cause a traumatic brain injury). A mild traumatic brain injury also involves one or more of the following:
- Observed or self-reported:
- Momentary confusion, disorientation, or impaired consciousness;
- Loss of memory around the time of injury;
- A short loss of consciousness (less than 30 minutes).
- Observed signs of neurological or neuropsychological dysfunction, such as:
- Seizures immediately after injury to the head;
- Infants and very young children may become irritable, lethargic (tired), or vomit following head injury;
- Older children and adults sometimes have a headache, dizziness, irritability, fatigue, or poor concentration soon after injury.
If you have experienced a traumatic brain injury immediate medical care is important. It is your best chance for the best outcome. Just don’t forget to eat too.