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Protect against physical, cognitive, and emotional injury with a helmet



Photo Courtesy: Progressive Agriculture Foundation During an activity called, “Stop! Don’t Use Your Head,” Progressive Agriculture Safety Day participants learn first-hand about the fragile nature of the brain. They reinforce the cantaloupe portrays a person's head and what can happen if it hits the hard ground or pavement unprotected in the event of a fall from a bicycle, horse, or an ATV/UTV. The cantaloupe is dropped once in a helmet and another time without a helmet.

As the seasons change and people young or young at heart embrace warm-weather activities, the Progressive Agriculture Foundation is mindful of brain injury prevention. 

March was recognized as Brain Injury Awareness Month. Favorite warm weather activities such as riding a horse, bike, or ATV can pose risks if proper personal protective equipment, such as a helmet, is not used. 

Jana Davidson, an education content specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation, said brain injuries are the leading cause of disability and death among children and adolescents.

“One major fall, crash, or flip could lead to a hospital trip,” Davidson said. “We want to avoid that at all costs. A staggering 564,000 children are seen in hospital emergency departments for brain injury and released.”

She cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in saying the two age groups at the greatest risk for brain injury are those between the ages of 0-4 and 15-19.

“In the younger age group, they’re just starting to walk and bumping into things,” Davidson said. “In the other major age group, you start to take a little more risk and start to feel like you don’t need this helmet. You gain confidence in what you are doing and let down your safety focus.”

Among those ages 0 to 19, each year an average of 62,000 children sustain brain injuries requiring hospitalization as a result of motor vehicle crashes, falls, sports injuries, physical abuse, and other causes.

For children ages 0 to 14, brain injuries result in an estimated 2,685 deaths, 37,000 hospitalizations, and 435,000 emergency department visits, according to the Progressive Agriculture Foundation. 

Davidson emphasized the need for an appropriately-fitted helmet, and not using the same helmet for different activities such as riding a bike and driving an ATV. Both cases should have a helmet suited for that purpose. Children can also quickly outgrow helmets, so it is important to check the size from season to season to make sure the helmet can give appropriate protection. 

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, brain injuries can account for the following impairments:

  • Physical: speech, vision, hearing, motor coordination, headaches, paresis or paralysis, spasticity of muscles, seizure disorders, balance, and fatigue.
  • Cognitive: short term memory deficits, impaired concentration, slowness of thinking, limited attention span, impairments of perception, communication skills, planning, writing, reading, and judgement.
  • Emotional: mood swings, denial, self-centeredness, anxiety, depression, lowered self-esteem, restlessness, lack of motivation, and difficulty controlling emotions.

Brain injuries can be especially detrimental to children as their young brain is still developing. Although some may believe a younger brain can recover sooner and a child can bounce back easier than an adult, the Progressive Agriculture Foundation says research proved that is not the case. Children are impacted more devastatingly than an injury of the same severity on a mature adult.

As part of their hands-on demonstrations hosted nationwide, Progressive Agriculture Safety Days lends a proactive approach to educating about preventing brain injuries by getting youth participants to understand the importance of a properly fitted helmet for various sport and recreational activities. Participants learn that when it comes to helmets, proper selection, fit, care, and use for the task at hand are all important considerations. The Progressive Agriculture Foundation presents this information through engaging, age-appropriate hands-on activities and demonstrations using items like eggs, cantaloupe, watermelon, and even a gelatin brain mold to truly understand the fragile nature of the human brain.

“You feel your head and you think it is so hard and protective, but we can demonstrate how our brain is so fragile,” Davidson said. 

Progressive Agriculture Safety Days is recognized as the largest rural safety and health education program for children in North America. The nonprofit adjusted to offer virtual content and training during COVID-19, but after April 1, Progressive Agriculture Safety Days will start a gradual return back to in-person events starting with school safety days. Davidson explained they are working closely with school safety protocols and have readiness plans and a checklist in place for coordinators to complete. 

“It will not be the same as in the past, but I think that giving the kids a sense of normalcy again is really important,” she said. 

For additional safety information or details about hosting, volunteering, or attending a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day, visit www.progressiveag.org or call  888-257-3529.

Those who are willing to make a donation and send another child to a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day in 2021 can text the word “SAFETYDAY” to 44321.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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