Kansas State Research and Extension has created a new program about brain injuries that is two-pronged: one portion includes resources for people with traumatic brain injuries and a second helps people gain a better understanding about injuries that affect more than a million people each year, and up to 20 percent of military personnel returning from combat deployment.

Robin Eubank, Extension agent in Barber County, was in Pratt last week to teach TBIoptions to a crowd of about a dozen. She, or Pratt County Agent Jodi Drake, is available to present the information to interested groups. Contact Drake at 672-6121 with questions or to make arrangements.

Some injuries are mild — a bump on the head that causes some temporary symptoms; others are severe enough to cause partial or significant loss of function in many areas. Survivors of brain injuries say attitude of the public is one of their biggest challenges.

The professional community describes success in terms of the person being able to return to work. But the work may be different, Eubank explained, citing one of three case studies followed in the program, in which a former pilot instructor now serves his community as a volunteer firefighter.

The individual may be different than before the injury and they need to be accepted for the person they are now. A western Kansas homemaker described how her friends sent her a card saying "hope you get better" soon after her car accident; then she never heard from them again.

"People tend to shy away," she said. "We're not contagious."

Some have no visible signs of their injuries. Symptoms of a mild injury include:

• headache that does not go away

• trouble remembering, paying attention or concentrating, organizing daily tasks or making decisions and solving problems

• slowness in thinking, speaking, acting or reading

• getting lost or easily confused

• feeling tired all the time, lacking energy or motivation

• change in sleep pattern

• loss of balance

• increased sensitivity to sounds, lights, distractions

• blurred vision or eyes that tire easily

• loss of sense of taste or smell

• ringing in the ears

• change in sexual drive

• mood changes

Groups most vulnerable to brain injuries include infants and children up to age 4, adolescents and older adults.

Program materials include information about managing concussion in high school athletes, and the importance of keeping a teen out of play to give the brain time to heal and avoid a second, more severe incident.

Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce risk to older adults, along with making homes and surroundings safer.

Twenty-eight Kansas counties are listed on a map that displays resources for individuals with traumatic brain injuries and their families. Categories include community and financial support, health-related concerns and treatment and rehabilitation. Pratt County is not represented by a red dot, which does not mean there are not services here, Eubank stressed, encouraging "someone" to compile a list of services and submit them online for inclusion on the map.

In perspective
Traumatic brain injuries per year: 1.7 million
Heart attacks: 935,000
Strokes: 795,000
Causes of TBI
Falls 35%
Unknown/other 21%
Vehicle accidents 17%
Struck by/against 16%
Assault 10%