By Kelly Montague, Athletic Trainer
Skiing, snowboarding, sledding, ice skating – outdoor activities and sports that many here in western North Carolina look forward to in the winter. Along with winter sport activities comes the potential of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, with a concussion being the most common. Concussions are often most associated with football and soccer, so they can be overlooked during winter sports – but the impact can be just as substantial, no matter what your choice of sport is.
A concussion is the mildest of TBIs and can present with various symptoms and severity. A concussion is a brain injury that is a result of a blow or jolt to the head, which can cause the brain to move within its protective skull. Some symptoms that may present with a concussion are temporary memory loss, headache, neck pain, nausea, sensitivity to light or noise, and fatigue.
More severe or life-threatening symptoms of a concussion that require immediate medical attention are repeated vomiting, seizures, dilated pupils, slurred speech, or weakness or numbness in arms or legs. If you or someone you know present with any of these symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible. It’s important to remember that symptoms of a concussion may develop or worsen over time after an injury to the head – be aware that you can experience that and pay attention to how you’re feeling or if someone else’s symptoms appear to worsen over time.
The risk of TBIs or concussions should not keep you from enjoying the activities you love doing, but being aware and knowing what to look out for will keep you and those participating safe.
Have fun and lower your potential risk of traumatic brain injury while you’re on the ice or slopes:
- Wear a helmet. If going snowboarding or skiing, wear a helmet to protect your skull from fracture or lessen a blow to the head from a fall.
- Take lessons and practice. Before attempting advanced levels or skills, learn and develop skills to understand better how to ice skate, snowboard or ski. No world champion or Olympic gold medalist mastered their tricks in a day!
- Take note of your environment. Be aware of surroundings while engaging in winter sports, such as black ice or tripping hazards that may be hidden by snow or are hard to see.
Remember that TBIs can’t always be prevented but if they do occur – be aware of symptoms, remove yourself from the activity and follow up with a physician for an evaluation. Most importantly, have fun enjoying the outdoors this winter!
Kelly Montague, MS, LAT, ATC, is an athletic trainer with Mission Sports Medicine.