Each year an estimated 500,000 persons sustain permanent brain and spinal cord injuries in the United States. The most frequent causes of these injuries are motor vehicle crashes, violence, falls and sports and recreation, especially diving and violence. Teens and young adults are at highest risk for these devastating injuries, the majority of which are preventable.
ThinkFirst For Teens, a program of the National Injury Prevention Foundation, is an award-winning public education effort targeting this high risk age group. Developed by America's Neurosurgeons, it is presented at no charge in junior and senior high schools. The upbeat program educates young people about personal vulnerability and risk taking. The message is that you can have a fun, exciting life, and you can do it without hurting yourself if you think first and use your mind to protect your body.
There are four components to the ThinkFirst For Teens program: school-based education, reinforcement activities, general public education, and public policy initiatives. The major educational portion is presented in junior high and high schools, in either large assembly or classroom formats. It consists of up to four segments:
The National Office offers training to start a local chapter, information on injury prevention to the general public, and technical support to local ThinkFirst chapters operating in 47 states. The film "ThinkFirst" is available for purchase, and the newsletter PREVENTION PAGES is available at no charge by signing the Guest Book.
- The 15-minute film "ThinkFirst" which features honest and direct testimony from people who have sustained a serious injury, about the narrow margin separating exciting activity, and fun which results in tragedy. Blending action and music, it features the insights of dynamic teenagers with brain and spinal cord injuries.
- A discussion of the anatomy of the brain and spinal cord, how injuries to these parts of the body occur, the physical results of injury, and how many of these injuries can be prevented. It is stressed that teens are the highest risk age group for these injuries.
- A young person who has sustained a brain or spinal cord injury describes how the choices made changed his/her life since the injury. This is the key component of the program, as it shows the students that these injuries can and do happen to people just like them while engaging in typical teenage activities, but that safe choices can prevent most injuries from occurring.
- A brief discussion on proper bystander behavior at the scene of an injury resulting from, for example, a diving injury or a motor vehicle crash.