Alaska leads nation in traumatic brain injury-related deaths

Alaska leads nation in Traumatic Brain Injury-related deaths
Updated: Mar. 24, 2022 at 7:30 AM AKDT
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BETHEL, Alaska (KTUU) - March is national Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month. The cities of Bethel and Anchorage have also both declared March as Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month for their respective communities.

In the city of Bethel, Mayor Mark Springer says these types of brain injuries are not a new topic.

“Out here in our region, we are sadly familiar with a variety of sorts of brain injuries that people suffer,” Springer said. “Some they recover from, and some have lifelong impacts.”

In Bethel, using utility vehicles and snowmachines is a common part of daily lifestyles. They can also sometimes lead to an injury.

“It’s not an unknown injury to us out here, you know, by any stretch of the imagination,” Springer said.

Traumatic brain injuries are a trend seen statewide. Currently, Alaska is leading the nation in deaths related to traumatic brain injuries, according to the University of Alaska Anchorage. According to UAA, 41% of these injuries are the result of falls, 24% are due to motor vehicle accidents and 11% are linked to assault.

“A lot of us know folks who are impacted by it,” Springer said.

He said there is one message he is pushing with the public.

“You can get in an accident but if you’re protecting your head, then the likelihood of getting a significant neurological injury is reduced,” he said.

However, Springer said he is now worried that more individuals will choose to not wear a helmet, after a recent state regulation change that allows the use of ATVs on state roads.

“If you’re in a car, of course, you’ve got to buckle up, right? Click it, or ticket,” Springer said. “There needs to be a fairly aggressive push ... you know statewide, to encourage people who are using public roadways and ATVs to be wearing helmets.”

Springer said he hopes the state will come together to enforce more safety regulations regarding the use of helmets.

UAA will be hosting events through March and April highlighting and spreading awareness on traumatic brain injuries.

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