As winter settles in and we have begun to see snow in the D.C. metro area many people have taken to the mountains of local ski/snowboarding resorts for some winter sport fun. January is National Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Awareness Month and the focus is on prevention of TBI incidents and/or reducing the severity of winter sport-related TBI. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, other winter sport-related activities include sledding, ice-skating, and hockey. The high speeds and slippery hard surfaces of many of these activities could lead to serious injuries. BrainLine.org offers several winter sport TBI prevention tips:
- Always wear a properly fitted helmet and replace it after a serious fall.
It is important to make sure that your helmet still fits correctly and securely in addition to any hat or caps used to keep your head warm. Additionally, it is very important to replace your helmet with a new one after a serious crash. Not all helmets are created equal: Some helmets are built to only withstand a single impact event, while others may withstand more than one – depending on severity.
- Have fun but also know your limitations.
Whether is it your first time out on the slopes or you’re a seasoned winter sport veteran, knowing one’s limitations is a critical step in reducing likelihood of winter sport-injuries. If it is your first time out on trying an activity it is important to take lessons from an expert, go slowly, and be patient.
- Be familiar with your surroundings and stay alert.
By knowing your surroundings and being alert, you can avoid and/or reduce winter sport-related injuries. Even if you are familiar with a particular trail, sledding hill, or ice rink make sure to scope out the conditions before barreling off at full-speed. Awareness is key! Be aware of blind spots, turns, and sudden drops/knolls. Avoiding crowded areas may reduce the risk of being injured due to someone else’s irresponsibility. Additionally, try to stay near the center of the trail or hill to avoid obstacles, never ski or sled through or close to trees, and stay alert by keeping your senses free to see and hear what is going on around you. If you have a sensory disability, check whether the facility has an experienced guide or co-skiier to accompany you.
- Be aware of the warning signs of concussion
If you or someone you are with does experience a hard spill/hit to the head it is important recognize the warning signs of a TBI. Signs and symptoms of a mild brain injury or a concussion may show up right away or may not appear until days or even weeks afterward. Concussion symptoms may include and not limited to: headaches, weakness, numbness, decreased coordination or balance, confusion, slurred speech, nausea, vomiting, and/or not feeling “quite like themselves.” Medical attention should be sought right away if you or someone else experiences any of these symptoms. Additionally, if a person loses consciousness, call 911 or seek emergency medical assistance as soon as possible.
Following these steps may aid in preventing and/or reducing the likelihood of experiencing a winter sport-related TBI. In the event of an accident, being aware of the warning signs of a TBI, taking swift action with medical treatment, and allowing adequate time to heal before going back to winter sport-related activities is key toward recovery and avoiding the long-term consequences of a repeated injury.