Winter Sports: Prevent Traumatic Brain Injuries
Posted on 01/13/2023

January is a great time to hit the slopes; whether skiing, snowboarding, sledding, or even snowshoeing, it's vital to know how to keep yourself and your family safe. 

National Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Awareness Month is observed every January as a way to remember helpful safety tips. Nearly 200,000 people were injured in 2018 while participating in winter sports, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). A study from the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery reports that "head injuries make up about 20% of these accidents largely from snow skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, sledding and tobogganing."

Athletes under the age of 15 represent the majority of TBIs. Statistics also show across all age groups, males show a higher rate of TBIs than females. In 2020, the CDC reported that "about 176 Americans died from TBI-related injury each day that year."

What is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?
Before diving into those safety tips, let's look at what traumatic brain injury is so you will better understand why you should protect yourself against it.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), traumatic brain injury is an acquired type of brain injury resulting from a sudden trauma that causes injury to the brain. For example, during skiing, if someone were to collide with a tree and hit their head at full-on impact, that could cause them to develop traumatic brain injury.

To have maximum fun and wins this season, safety experts at Benton-Franklin Health District (BFHD) have compiled a list of a few winter sports safety tips to keep your family active, healthy, and safe this winter!  

Extreme Winter Sports Adventure Safety Tips (American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons):

  • Always wear a helmet for high-velocity sports.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear and outerwear to limit skin exposure.
  • Know when to stop. Injuries happen from exhaustion.
  • Be informed about current weather conditions.
  • Stay in bounds on the slopes and watch for obstacles and hazardous conditions.
  • Never participate in winter sports activities alone.
  • Extreme sports activities should be enjoyed where medical care is near.
  • Seek medical attention if injured.
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) helmet recommendations for winter activities:
    • Skate-style helmet approved to ASTM F1492.
    • Ski/snowboard helmet approved to either ASTM F2040 or EN1077.
    • Or any CPSC bicycle helmet would be better than no helmet.

Signs and Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury
If you or anyone has an accident during the winter season, here are some common signs and symptoms of TBI that you can look out for:

  • loss of consciousness
  • trouble with memory and concentration
  • lightheadedness
  • ringing in the ear
  • headache
  • blurred vision
  • bad taste in the mouth
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • behavioral or mood changes

Anyone with signs of moderate or severe TBI should never be left alone and should receive medical attention right away and will require treatment at the closest emergency room. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH), seeking medical attention is critical because little can be done to reverse the initial brain damage. Medical staff will work to stabilize the person suffering from a TBI to prevent further injury. 

Remember that signs and symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe. If you suspect TBI, watch for dizziness, visual disturbances, light intolerance, memory loss, and headaches. All of these indicate you should seek immediate medical care. 

Medical experts suggest you seek help anytime you injure your head, especially on the slopes. Ask the ski staff for help traveling back down the mountain or slope to prevent further damage if you have a potential head injury. Once checked out by a doctor, follow their guidelines before you carve an edge (digging your skids into the snow to control speed). 

Most of us never imagined that a brain injury could impact our lives, and it's important to learn as much as possible to prevent a TBI. Share this information with family and friends to reduce the number of incidents by keeping the brain safe and healthy. 

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