When winter arrives so do winter sports. Hockey, figure skating, ringette and curling are in full swing. Backyard and outdoor skating rinks are opening, and as soon as the snow hits the ground tobogganing starts. These are all great ways to stay active in darker cold winter months. One thing they all have in common though is that they have a high risk of concussion.
Falls and blows to the head aren’t uncommon in these high-speed sports, and concussions are not uncommon either. It is important to remember that if someone does hit their heads and sustains a concussion, they may not realize there is a problem. Concussion is brain damage which means that it impairs the ability to think clearly. We also have a tendency to minimize injuries. It’s important for bystanders to take responsibility for anyone that is injured.
Concussion forces can cause physical and chemical changes to the brain and can come from simply slipping and falling, or from taking a blow to the head by crashing on skis or skates. The symptoms of concussion may be immediately apparent or can take days or weeks to show. It is not uncommon for people who slip and fall to have serious brain bleeds that only become apparent weeks later when the victim cannot walk or talk easily. It’s happened to people I know.
Symptoms of concussions can include:
· Balance problems
· Mood or personality changes
· Lack of clear thinking
· Headaches or blurry vision
· Nausea and/or vomiting
· Sensitivity to noise or light
· Memory issues – particularly what happened before or after the blow to the head
If someone is knocked unconscious, had unequal pupils or has seizures you should seek immediate emergency medical help. If the injured person is a young child or older person you should seek immediate emergency aid as well.
Anyone whose symptoms worsen after a blow to the head should seek care immediately.
Medical professionals will do cognitive and physical assessments and my do imaging tests as well to rule out serious problems.
If you have had a concussion you should follow the treatment advice from the physician. This may include lengthy breaks from physical activity, isolation from noise and light, and complete bed rest. If this is a second or subsequent concussion the symptoms may last much longer and be much more serious than the first concussion.
You can’t avoid concussion risk in life, but you can reduce you chances of getting one.
· In sports always wear the correct fitting sport specific helmet and play within your limits.
· Always wear your seatbelt and place kids into the correct size of car seat or booster. Follow the guidelines, if your children are on the smaller end of size they may need to be in a booster for far longer than their friends. Don’t give in to the pressure to get them out of the seats.
· Use safety gates at the top of stairs.
· Get rid of all throw rugs and tripping hazards in senior homes
· Clear the sidewalks, walkways and driveway of ice and now around your house. Sand and salt to provide traction or get rid of ice.