Break Point!

Volume 2, Issue 4 View the Archives April, 1999
Breakpoint Thinks Spring
Sleepiness in America, Wake up and Take Notice
Safety Belts, Your Best Defense Against Hazards on the Roads
Are You a Road Warrior?
Injuries Can Take the Fun Out Of Sports
Play the Game, Wear the Gear
Prevention Web Sites of the Month
Next Month in Injury Prevention

Breakpoint Thinks Spring

Kathy O'Day
Loyola University Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Injury Prevention Program

There are small signs that spring is here. There are buds on the trees, the tulips are starting to pop up and families are getting ready to sign their children up for sports activities. We have all had enough of winter and are now preparing ourselves to get reacquainted with the outdoors. Spring is finally here!

Warmer weather means increased activities outdoors. Children are looking forward to the usual springtime sports activities such as; T-ball, soccer, baseball, track and field. The focus of sports is playing the game but injuries can take the fun out of any sport. April is National Sports Safety Month, it brings attention to children, parents and coaches the seriousness of sports related injuries.

Breakpoint will also highlight National Drive Safely to Work Week (April 19-23). Hundreds of thousands of people are driving to and from work each day. This issue will cover how to get to and return safely wherever you go.

Break Point is produced by Loyola University, Burn and Shock Trauma Institute Injury Prevention Program. Please call us at (708) 327-2455 with any comments or questions.

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Sleepiness in America, Wake up and Take Notice

Sleep or at least the lack of it, is big news. As children it was difficult to nap while the sun was shining and toys were waiting for your return. As adults, we are unable to nap due to time constraints. Most of us would give a king's ransom for a bit more "shut eye". According to Dr. Frankie-Roman, a sleep specialist, "A loss of just one hour of sleep each night for a week can cause sleep deprivation". Getting behind the wheel of a car while drowsy can be just as deadly as driving drunk. Driver fatigue may be the primary highway safety concern of the decade.

Those drivers at greatest risk are: young people, night shift or rotating shift workers, commercial drivers, frequent travelers and those with undiagnosed sleep disorders. Drowsy driving is an under recognized problem. Approximately 200,000 crashes a year may be sleep related. 20% of drivers have fallen asleep behind the wheel at least once according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Drowsiness slows reaction time, decreases awareness and impairs judgment, just as alcohol and drugs do. Drowsy driving can be just as fatal.

 Some actions to be taken if you feel sleepy behind the wheel:

  • Look for the warning signs of fatigue- irritability, unable to keep eyes focused, yawning
  • Find a place to stop and take a brief nap if tired- just napping for 20 minutes can increase awareness.
  • Drink coffee to promote short-term alertness if needed.

Some statewide actions that should be considered are:

  • Continuous rumble strips along the shoulder of the highway to alert drivers that they may have veered off the road.
  • Continuing education of the police force and community at large about the seriousness of drowsy driving.

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Safety Belts, Your Best Defense Against Hazards on the Roads

The vast majority of all fatal and non-fatal injuries in America, including traffic injuries are not acts of fate but are predictable and preventable. Injuries are a major health care problem and are the leading cause of death for people age 1-42. The most effective means of reducing fatalities and serious injuries is to wear your seat belt every time you drive or ride. Research has found that lap/shoulder belts, when used properly, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45 percent.

In December 1996 President Clinton asked all Americans to always wear seat belts as a first line of defense against traffic injuries and fatalities and to always keep children ages 12 and under, buckled in the back seat where they are the safest. In January 1997, the President directed the Secretary of Transportation to prepare a plan to increase the use of seat belts nationwide.

The new national goals set by the President is to increase seat belt use to 85% by the year 2000 and to 90% by the year 2005 (up from 68% in 1996). This increase would prevent an estimated 4,194 fatalities and 102,518 injuries annually.

Ultimately, it is the individual who must take responsibility for his or her own behavior. Since young children are unable to protect themselves, parents and caregivers are responsible for transporting children safely. Which means, children under 12 ride in the back seat and in the appropriate restraint for their age and weight.

Every person living in America should:

  • Buckle up every time you drive, even if it is only a short distance.
  • Make sure there are enough seat belts for all riders.
  • Make sure the seat belts are in working condition. If you have been in a crash you need to get the seat belts replaced from an authorized dealer.
  • Ask passengers to use their belts. An unbelted person can be injured or injure others in a crash.
  • Don't start the car until all safety belts are fastened.
  • Don't rely on air bags alone, they are designed to be used with safety belts.
  • Move the seat back as far as you can safely reach the controls. Persons in the passenger seat should move the seat as far back as it could go. The driver should be at least 11 inches from the air bag to avoid injuries should the air bag deploy.
  • Never put a child safety seat in a seat with an air bag in front of it.

For more information on the National Goals, check the NHTSA website at:

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Are You a Road Warrior?

You are driving in your car, the day is over and you are in a hurry to get home. This day hasn't been like any other, your computer has crashed, and the shipment you have been waiting for is now on back order. Meetings with clients have put you a bit on edge. At least traffic is moving well. Just then, someone cuts you off. You mutter a slight obscenity and begin to accelerate to pass them by. You are going to show them all right. You have passed them by and there is a hostile glare from the other driver. The chase is now on!

Welcome to "road rage".

Aggressive driving has been on the rise for several years. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), it has been increasing by about 7% each year since 1990. It is a situation that needs to be taken seriously. Discourtesy is the major factor in road rage. Loud music, over-use of the horn, tailgating and changing lanes without signaling are all trigger points that contribute to aggressive driving. The actual causes can be traced to increased levels of stress in the workplace.

Here are some tips from Dr. Ricardo Martinez, Administrator of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to help you through your journey:

  • Don't take traffic problems personally
  • Avoid eye contact with an aggressive driver.
  • Don't make obscene gestures ("that makes you a player and suddenly it begins to escalate")
  • Don't tailgate
  • Use your horn sparingly (even a polite honk can be misinterpreted)
  • Don't block the passing lane
  • Don't block the right turn lane

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Injuries Can Take the Fun Out Of Sports

Children look forward to the warmer weather and the chance to get outdoors to play their favorite sports. Sports activities are meant to be fun but there are aspects of the game that should be evaluated and prepared for in advance. Parents, children and coaches should be aware that taking time to prevent unintentional injury would add enjoyment to the sport. There are many factors that contribute to player's safety once they begin to play, including good sportsmanship, safety equipment, adult supervision and a plan for first-aid treatment.

Children can suffer injuries playing any sport; some sports have a higher injury rate than others. Each year, more than 500,000 children ages 5-14 experience sports-related injuries during participation in the following six sports: basketball, football, baseball, softball, soccer, and gymnastics. If your child is playing in any of the "high injury" sports, you need to be extra careful and attentive to safety measures.

Here is some safety tips to keep in mind at practice or at games:

  • Follow the rules. They are set to promote safety.
  • Make sure that players are fairly matched according to size and ability, not age.
  • Do not attempt to "play" through pain. Parents and coaches should be aware of the warning signs that a player may be injured.
  • Do not play if you are overtired. Many injuries occur with fatigue.
  • Begin training slowly. Increase your training gradually without overexerting yourself.
  • Do warm up and cool-down stretches before and after each practice or game.
  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after the game.
  • Remember you are there to have fun!

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Play the Game, Wear the Gear

The proper use of safety equipment during sports activities can mean the difference between having fun and serious injury. Too often the protective gear is inadequate, inappropriate or unavailable due to lack of funds to buy the proper attire. There are times when lack of education and training about safety from the coaches leaves our children unprotected

Helmets protect the head from serious injuries to the brain. They should be a mandatory part of the uniform when participating in: equestrian sports, in-line skating, Snowmobiling, baseball, football, rugby, softball, bicycling, hockey, skateboarding, wrestling, boxing, skiing and any other sport that would warrant the use of a helmet.

Shin pads, wrist guards and kneepads should be worn to protect the knees, shins and wrists from fractures. In-line skating, volleyball and soccer warrant the use of protective gear.

Mouth guards protect the mouth, teeth, cheeks and tongue and cushion the blows that cause concussions or jaw fractures. The Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of mouth guards in all contact and collision sports.

Protective eye gear should be made of nonbreakable, polycarbonate materials and should be worn to protect the eyes from devastating injuries. When participating in hockey, skiing, basketball, racket sports and soccer protective eye gear should be worn.

Chest protectors for batters can protect the heart from impact of the ball to the chest. In some instances, it can also protect the chest wall and internal organs. Ball impact to the chest was the most frequently reported cause of baseball- related death in children.

It is an important job as a parent to research the proper gear to be worn for each of the sports activities your child will be playing. As parents it is equally important to inform the coaches of any unsafe practices they may be unaware of.

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Prevention Web Sites of the Month

American Automobile Association
Illinois Emergency Medical Services for Children
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
National SafeKids Campaign
National Sleep Foundation

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Coming Next Month in Injury Prevention

  • National Trauma Awareness Month
  • National SAFEKIDS Week (5/2-8)
  • Safe Boating Week (5/22-28)
  • National Emergency Medical Services Week (5/17-23)
  • National EMSC Day (5/19)
  • Buckle up America Week (5/25-31)

The information on the Loyola University Health System (LUHS) Web site is for educational purposes only. It is presented in summary form in order to impart general information relating to certain diseases, ailments, physical conditions and their treatments. The information provided through the LUHS Web site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease, nor is it a substitute for professional care. Should you have any health-care related questions or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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