Children recover quickly from many injuries, but bad choices can create lifelong problems, Rehoboth Elementary students learned during an interactive presentation on brain and spinal cord safety.
“The brain is almost like the computer of your body, and you only have one,” said Jennifer McCue of the Nemours Injury Prevention Program.
McCue works at A.I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, where she uses data to determine the most frequent injuries seen in the ER, and then develops programs to teach children and parents how to avoid them. Falls and car accidents are most common, she said.
“I want programs to make an impact and make children think without being too scary or dramatic,” McCue said.
Students learned that different parts of the brain control different things - among them, memory, speech, balance - and if the brain is injured in those areas, those abilities are also damaged.
“The brain works with the spinal cord,” McCue said. “The brain is the computer, and its job is to send messages to different parts of the body. The spinal cord is like a highway that carries the message. If the spinal cord gets cut, the message can’t get through.”
Diving headfirst into shallow water or falling while hanging upside down on monkey bars can break your back or neck and cut your spinal cord, so your body won’t receive messages and do what it’s supposed to, she said.
“But a lot of these injuries can be prevented by making good choices,” she said.
Through games and role play, students learned how to correctly wear bike helmets and seat belts, and safely use playground equipment to protect themselves in case of falls or car accidents.
“A seat belt is like a bike helmet,” she said. “If it’s not fitting you correctly, it won’t protect you.”
Helmets should be the right size, sit level on the head and low on the forehead, she said, and the chin strap should be snug. She also said children must sit in the back seat of the car, seatbelts should buckle over the lap, and the shoulder strap should lie over the chest, away from the neck.
When taking a school bus, students should know the danger zone around the bus and walk in front, where they can be seen by the driver, McCue said. Backpacks should never be worn on the bus; they should be placed on the floor to reduce impact on the neck and spinal cord in case of an accident, she said.
“If you see someone fall, make them stay still, and don’t move them because if they have broken bones, the sharp edges can cut their spinal cord if they move,” McCue said. “Remember to be safe and make good choices.”