Posts Tagged ‘sports’

Preventing Brain Injuries During Winter Sport Season

Although summer is the season best known for outdoor activities, winter is often overlooked as a season full of outdoor fun and sports. From ice skating with a group of friends at the local rink to joining the ski team at school, there are numerous activities for everyone to enjoy as the snow falls and the temperatures begin to drop. As with every sporting activity, either for fun or as part of an organized league, there is the potential to be injured.

 

Sporting injuries often include sprains, strains, and minor fractures, but some of the most serious include a life changing brain injury. Here are some ways to prevent a brain injury while enjoying some of your favorite winter sports:

Snowboarding and Skiing

 

If you’ve ever hit the slopes, you may have noticed children as young as preschool aged and even elderly adults enjoying the skiing and snowboarding. For safety reasons, ski resorts often urge novice skiers and snowboarders  to use the “beginner” hills and for many beginners, the starter hill is big enough. Although people, who are new to skiing and snowboarding, may be more likely to be injured while flying down the hill, skiers and snowboarders of all ages and expertise levels are at risk of concussions, even professionally trained skiers and snowboarders.

 

The best way to avoid a head injury is to wear a helmet. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, approximately 10 million Americans ski or snowboard each year and an estimated 600,000 injuries are a result from hitting the slopes. Of those injuries, approximately 20% are head injuries, many were reported not wearing a helmet.

Ice Hockey and Ice Skating

 

Have you ever wondered why hockey players wear a helmet and a figure skater doesn’t? While hockey players are at a much greater risk for suffering a TBI, due to the contact nature of the sport, figure skaters could be a risk of bumping his or her head with a fall during a routine. Again, the level of expertise doesn’t automatically make you immune from getting a head injury.

 

Children are at a particularly high risk for head injuries when participating in ice sports. If your child wants to get involved in winter ice sports, it’s crucial that he or she wears a helmet, particularly in the learning stages. Talk to the instructors and see what their protocol is for preventing head injuries and other types of injuries.

 

All Other Types of Winter Activities

Winter is full of fun activities from sledding, curling, snowshoeing, and walking around the neighborhood during a light snowfall. While many of these types of activities seem relatively harmless, you are still at risk of a head injury. Why? Ice is the dangerous factor in a majority of winter sport injuries. It’s often hard to see and it can be hard to recover once you start slipping. Wearing a helmet all day long is not a feasible option, but you can reduce your risk by wearing ice cleats on your boots or shoes and walk slowly, focusing on the surface on which you’re walking.

At-Risk Groups for Traumatic Brain Injury

football brain injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major topic in public health. As an under-discussed but extremely serious condition, TBI awareness needs to be spread among the general population. And even more than the general population, several specific groups need to understand that their situations call for special attention to TBI. If you’re a member of one of these groups, be aware, educate yourself, and stay safe to avoid lasting and brutalizing damage to your body’s central organ.

Athletes and Risks for Brain Injury

Athletes are among the population most at risk for a TBI. Players of heavy hitting sports such as football and boxing are, of course, at the deepest risk. But TBI affects more athletes than just linebackers and welterweight champions. Any athlete can suffer head trauma. In fact, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), cycling is the sport that most commonly associated with brain injury. (The other items in the top five are football, baseball/softball, basketball, water sports (diving, swimming, etc.), and recreational vehicle riding.)

 

If you’re an athlete—of any kind—be careful. Sports enthusiasts suffer TBIs very often. Any small bang to the head can leave you with lasting damage. Even relatively violence-free sports are common sources of injury (see basketball on that list up there?). Fast movements of all sports lead to strong blows to the head. Watch yourself.

Construction Workers and Risks for Brain Injury

Those “hard hat required” signs are there for a good reason. When working construction, hard and heavy object are very likely to come dislodged and knock your head around. Even a small object can severely damage your brain if it falls far and fast enough. Construction workers are vulnerable to pails, planks, wrenches, and countless other objects falling without warning and hitting them in the head.

 

And falling objects aren’t even the most frequent cause of TBIs in construction work. Human falls are. A 2009 study from the medical journal Brain Injury found that simply falling down and hitting a head on the ground was the biggest source of brain injury among construction workers. Construction sites are filled with many tripping hazards, and the fall construction workers take are often longer and harder than the falls people take in most workplaces. If you are a construction worker, be careful on site, wear your hard hat, and walk carefully.

Any Job that Involves Driving

According to the Mayo Clinic, vehicular accidents frequently cause TBIs. Professions in which workers need to drive around regularly—taxi drivers, delivery drivers, postal workers, police, home health aides, etc.—can be potent sources of brain injury danger. Car accidents are, of course, causes of every kind of health problem under the sun, and workers in these jobs are likely already aware of the problems associated with crashes.
If you drive for a living, review your traffic safety skills. Practice defensive driving, watch your surroundings carefully, and wear your seat belt. Even a minor fender bender can give your head a big bump and leave your mind altered forever. Professional drivers can never be careful on the road.

Back to School & Preventing Brain Injuries

During spring and summer months, as well as weekends, children are more likely to have head injuries, particularly when they are most active outdoors. As a result, many parents find it hard to keep their children injury-free during summer vacation, but once school starts the incidence of injury continues with school sports and during regular activities throughout the school day.

 

Although tripping, falling, and getting minor bumps and bruises seem to be a natural part of being a kid, injuries to the head must always be taken seriously. The Brain Injury Association of America reports that each year, 62,000 children between the ages of 0-19 sustain brain injuries that require hospitalization. Additionally, over 500,000 are treated in the ER for TBI. While you can’t always prevent injuries from occurring, you can make sure your children are safe at school and during extracurricular activities.

In the Classroom, On the Playground

 

Teachers do their best to closely monitor children in the classroom and in the hallways, but children are notorious for goofing around, not thinking about the potentially dangerous outcome. The playground can be particularly dangerous and a frequent place for injuries, despite the close monitoring from a trained staff member. Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. Although you can’t watch every move your child makes during his or her school day, you can remind him or her how to stay safer at school.

 

  • Avoid engaging in horseplay. Pulling on a friend’s shirt during a game of tag or purposefully bumping or tripping a classmate can cause serious injuries.

 

  • Don’t lean back in chairs and keep all four legs of the chair on the floor. If the chair slips, your child could hit his or her head on the floor, causing a brain injury.

 

  • Follow all rules in the classroom, in the lunchroom, in the hallways, and on the playground.

 

Additionally, as a parent, you should recognize the signs of a TBI, in case your child comes home from school seeming a little “off”. If he or she was engaging in unsafe behaviors he or she may be more likely to withhold information about an injury.

After School, On the Field

 

Organized sports are a wonderful way for your child to gain confidence, be healthy, and work as a team player. Unfortunately, sports are also a common way to receive a life-changing head injury. From a bicycle ride with friends after school to leading the school in a cheer while flipping in the air to making a touchdown before being tackled, most types of sports are potentially dangerous and can lead to a TBI. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to be involved in your child’s extra curricular sports. Showing up and cheering your son or daughter on is encouraging, but make sure the sport is as safe as possible.

 

Talk to the coaches about their safety plans or how they treat head injuries. Do they make players stay out of games until they are given a “go ahead” or are they put back in the game right away? Do players wear protective gear all the time or only during games or matches? Is the sport age appropriate for your child or is it too aggressive? Anytime you feel like your child’s safety is in danger, you should speak up; it could prevent a TBI.

Professional Sports and the Risk of Brain Injury

When San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland made the decision to retire in his prime, it once again called attention the risks of suffering a traumatic brain injury that professional athletes face when playing America’s most popular sport. Many players are looking at the future and considering their health as more important than a career in professional football. A massive paycheck, at the end of the day, cannot balance out the health impacts that many of these athletes suffer later in life, or take place while playing the game. Borland felt that he didn’t want to wait until he suffered symptoms to quit the game; that could be too late, and he felt that he would prefer to live a long, healthy life.

The NFL has been avoiding this issue, and has consistently downplayed the symptoms that athletes playing pro football face after repeat concussions. There was much research that revealed that players were susceptible to various health problems from repeated head trauma, and despite the research to the contrary, the NFL was responsible for funding a study that claimed that the sport did not pose any extraordinary risk to players, and has even blamed journalists for shining a light on the problem, rather than dealing with traumatic brain injuries as a real issue of concern that must be addressed and resolved.

The Impact on the Brain: Repeated Concussions

Findings released by Dr. Bennet Omalu in 2005, as reported by Frontline, revealed that the autopsy findings on Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster who passed away at the early age of 50 showed that he had the brain of a much older person. PBS reports that other autopsies on former NFL players clearly indicated that in 76 out of 79 cases, the players had evidence of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative disease of the brain associated with repeated brain trauma and concussions).

Whether the NFL finally admits to the problem and addresses it or continues to try to downplay that this is a serious issue of concern, it has become ultimately clear that sports professionals are at high risk of suffering serious health problems associated with the pounding they take to the head in tackling and being tackled. Children involved in sports are also at risk of such injuries, and parents would be prudent to discuss these issues with coaches and trainers before allowing a child to participate in a sports program that could endanger their health for the long term.