The ACSN Blog

November 20, 2011

Head Safety in Winter Sports

Head Safety in Winter Sports

Outdoor enthusiasts cheer the cold weather but the advent of winter also brings an onslaught of injuries. Unfortunately the majority of winter accidents treated at The American Center for Spine & Neurosurgery are related to slips and falls on hidden black ice. While many of those mishaps are difficult to prevent, there are ways to protect oneself from winter sports-related injuries.

Helmet use is not mandated by state law but it is the only way to protect the brain from traumatic injury during contact sports like hockey and fast paced non-contact sports such as skiing, snowboarding, skating, snowmobiling and sledding. One must ensure that the helmet meets appropriate standards and is fitted properly by a professional. Even so, concussions and more severe life threatening brain injuries resulting from shaking the brain within the skull can occur. If you experience any of the following symptoms outlined by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, you must go to your doctor immediately and/or the nearest hospital emergency room for examination.

Pain: Constant or recurring headache

Motor Dysfunction: Inability to control or coordinate motor functions, or disturbance with balance

Sensory: Changes in ability to hear, taste or see; dizziness; hypersensitivity to light or sound

Cognitive: Shortened attention span; easily distracted; overstimulated by environment; difficulty staying focused on a task, following directions or understanding information; feeling of disorientation and confusion and other neuropsychological deficiencies.

Speech: Difficulty finding the "right" word; difficulty expressing words or thoughts; dysarthric speech.

Other precautions include participating in winter sports in safe (un-wooded) areas, control speed of recreational vehicles and limit the use of alcohol and drugs.

Stay safe and enjoy the snow!