Thursday, January 26, 2012

Avoid Brain Injuries: Don’t Forget Your Helmet

(Salt Lake City, UT) – With the state’s recent snowfall, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) wants to remind the public to stay safe as they enjoy the winter outdoors. In 2009, 440 Utahns – or more than eight people every week – were hospitalized or died from a sports or recreation-related traumatic brain injury (TBI). Ten percent of these TBIs were due to snow sports like skiing and snowboarding, sledding, ice skating, and snowmobiling.

Recent data show the top five causes of sports and recreation-related TBIs in Utah are:
   1.  Bicycle crashes (34.3%)  
   2.  Off-highway vehicle/all-terrain vehicle (OHV/ATV) (24.5%), which also includes dirt bikes, dune buggies, snowmobiles, etc.
   3.  Horse/rodeo/large animal (13.0%)
   4.  Snow sports (8%) like skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and ice skating
   5.  Skateboard/in-line skates/scooter (6.8%)

When looked at more closely, the data reveal that snowboarding accounts for half (50%) of all TBIs caused by snow sports, followed by skiing (28.9%), sledding (18.4%), and ice skating (2.6%). Snowmobile crashes account for only 5.9% of all TBIs caused by OHV/ATV crashes.

Three simple steps can help keep you and your family safe this winter.

  •  Wear a helmet when riding a snowmobile, skiing, snowboarding, or sledding. A full two-thirds (66.7%) of those who suffered a TBI in 2009 during these activities were not wearing a helmet.

  •  Complete the Utah State Parks and Recreation Know Before You Go! snowmobile education course. Utah law requires youth ages eight to 16 (or until they get their state-issued driver license) to complete this course before operating a snowmobile. The course costs $30 and is available online at

  •  Check current avalanche danger and weather conditions before going into Utah’s backcountry. Find it online at

Traumatic brain injuries can have dramatic impacts on a person’s ability to lead an active, fulfilling life. Help is available for Utahns who have suffered a TBI and their families by contacting the Brain Injury Association of Utah (BIAU) at 801-716-4993 or by visiting

For additional data on sports and recreation-related TBIs, visit
Media Contact:
Jenny Johnson
Violence & Injury Prevention Program
(o) 801-538-9416 (m) 801-298-1569
Ron Roskos
Brain Injury Association of Utah
(m) 801-979-2799

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Helping Babies Start Life With a Healthy Heart

(Salt Lake City, UT) – The image of a beating heart is the image of life. But many babies in Utah and across the nation are born with a congenital heart defect. These include problems with how the heart, its walls, or valves have been formed and are among the most common of all birth defects. In Utah, more than 300 babies are born with heart problems every year.

“This is an important public health concern, and our goal is to make everyone aware of possible prevention measures and early warning signs, said Amy Nance, Program Manager, Utah Department of Health (UDOH) Utah Birth Defect Network (UBDN).

As a group, birth defects are the leading cause of infant mortality in the U.S., and heart defects are the number one killer. January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, and the UBDN is joining Intermountain Healing Hearts (IHH), a Wasatch Front support group that helps families dealing with the realities of a child born with heart problems.

IHH President Brytten Pettit is the mother of a child born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. She says she’s benefitted from the group and the Utah medical community.

“Today I have a happy, thriving, independent 3-year-old, and we are grateful for every day we spend together. It's no longer about counting the years, it's about making the years count!" said Brytten.

There is hope for children with congenital heart defects. Early detection and treatment can help them live longer and better. Survival has been improving in the last several decades.

There is also hope for prevention. The causes of many heart defects remain a mystery, but the UBDN, University of Utah (U of U), other groups around the country, and hundreds of Utah families are involved in studies to identify preventable causes as part of the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The heart forms in the early weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman realizes she is pregnant,” said Lorenzo Botto, M.D., a geneticist and professor of Pediatrics at the U of U “Diet, lifestyle choices, the environment, health conditions, and medications can all play a role in preventing or causing congenital heart defects,” Botto added.

Studies have shown there are several things women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant can do:
  • See a physician prior to pregnancy, especially if there are: health conditions that require medications; metabolic conditions like diabetes, obesity, phenylketonuria (PKU); or a family history of congenital heart defects.
  • Diabetic or obese women should make sure their blood sugar is under control and work toward a healthy weight through a nutritious food plan prior to conception.
  • Take a folic acid supplement and check with their health care provider to confirm they are getting adequate amounts of all the essential nutrients.
  • Avoid all alcohol and illegal/recreational drugs.
  • Avoid exposure to smoke, chemicals, and toxins both at work and at home.
  • Get regular medical check-ups and learn about their family history and potential genetic risks. 
“Small steps like visiting a health care provider before pregnancy and taking a multivitamin every day can go a long way,” said Nance.

The UBDN works with health care professionals and public health agencies around Utah to encourage prevention and awareness of congenital heart defects among women of childbearing age in the Utah. To learn more, call 866-818-7096 or visit

Media Contact:
Amy Nance
Program Manager
(801) 883-4661