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Expert warns about serious head injuries as weather warms



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RIVERTON -- Warmer weather means more people outdoors and possibly more brain injuries.

Twenty-five-year-old Jared Parry was airlifted to University Hospital in critical condition Tuesday night. He had been riding a skateboard tethered to an ATV in a gated community in Riverton when he crashed. He fell and struck his head on the pavement.

That's just one of the 1.5 million brain injuries that someone will suffer this year in the United States. By comparison, approximately 176,300 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.

Ron Roskos, executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Utah says those injuries can be long-lasting. "Just in the state of Utah there's over 44,000 individuals that are living with a long-term disability from brain injury," he said.

Beyond that, Roskos says it's an average cost of $4 million to rehabilitate from a traumatic brain injury. And eventually, health insurance stops paying.

"We think that it isn't going to affect us, but it does, because once their insurance runs out, they become participants of Medicaid and Medicare, and we pay taxes, and we are paying taxes for that," he said.

Roskos says that's one more reason Utahns need to wear a helmet when they're engaged in sports activities like biking, skateboarding, and riding ATVs. Currently, there is no helmet law in Utah, with the exception of helmets for children under the age of 16 who ride on a motorcycle.

According to the brain injury association of Utah, here are the numbers:

  • Every 23 seconds, one person in the U.S. sustains a brain injury
  • Over the past 12 years, mortality from brain injury has exceeded the cumulative number of American battle deaths inclusive of all wars since the founding of the Republic.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a silent yet serious epidemic currently leaving 5.3 million Americans with disabilities. This represents over- 2% of the US population; 40,000 victims in Utah alone!
  • 50% of brain injuries are caused by vehicle crashes, 26% by falls.
  • In September 2000 alone, 8600 children under the age of 15 suffered a brain injury from scooter accidents... almost 300 children per day!
  • Every 7 minutes, someone dies of a brain injury
  • One death every day and one brain injury every four minutes can be prevented by the use of helmets in recreational activities, including skiing and biking.
  • 80 % of brain injury victims end up in a divorce
  • 75% of persons with TBI who return to work will lose their job within 90 days if they do not have supports.
  • The estimated lifetime cost for each survivor of a severe brain injury exceeds $4 million.

The Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office is now investigating Tuesday's incident in Riverton, looking into whether speed or loss of control led to the crash.

E-mail: bbruce@ksl.com

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Becky Bruce

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