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Winter Sports Head Injury Prevention

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It's officially Winter in New England and despite the cold, a lot of us Northerner’s look forward to this season every year.

It’s the time of year where we can dust off our winter jackets and snow pants and play in the snow! Whether you like to sled with your kids, snowmobile, cross-country or downhill ski, snowboard, snow shoe, ice-skate, play ice-hockey, or even ice-fish, there is something special about being in nature and experiencing the fresh powder of a recent snowfall. Unfortunately, these activities are not without potential dangers. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s annual report, which details how many injuries are associated with consumer products based on nationwide hospital emergency department data, in 2015, just over 53,000 injuries were reported from snow skiing and snowboarding, while there were close to 18,000 reported from toboggans, sleds and snow discs. Not all of these injuries included Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), but a 2009 report specified that Americans experienced approximately 17,000 head injuries due to winter sports (e.g., skiing, sledding, snowboarding, snowmobiling), with 6,750 of those occurring in children younger than 14. According to another study published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, more than 10 million Americans hit the ski slopes each year and with that, as many as 600,000 injuries are reported, with head injuries accounting for 20 percent of those. The majority of that 20% were due to falling or collisions with a tree. The good news is that skiers and snowboarders are increasingly wearing helmets, as use went from only 25 percent in the 2002-2003 ski season to 70 percent in 2012-2013.

Preventing head injuries

Since January has been designated “Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month,” I wanted to take a moment to share with you a couple of tips on how to prevent head injury, as well as provide a couple of signs and symptoms of concussion before you hit the slopes or step out onto the snow or ice for your favorite winter activity. It is always prudent to remember safety and be educated on the signs of head injury incase an accident or injury does occur this season to you or someone you know.

Winter activity safety tips:
 Wear approved, properly fitted, and well-maintained protective equipment (helmets, pads, etc.).
 Test your equipment to be sure it is in good condition (skis, snowboards, boots, ice skates, sleds, etc.) before you go.
 Follow all posted safety rules, stay within allowed boundaries, and avoid closed trails. If skating on a pond, only skate on approved ice.
 Take a lesson if you are new to the sport or need to brush up on your skills.
 Know your limits and do not try to push yourself beyond what you can safely handle.
 Avoid alcohol, as it impairs the senses and slows reaction time. Incase an injury does occur, here are some common signs and symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that you can look out for:
 loss of consciousness
 trouble with memory and concentration
 lightheadedness
 ringing in the ears
 headache
 blurred vision
 bad taste in the mouth
 confusion
 dizziness
 behavioral or mood changes

Keep in mind that signs and symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe, that serious symptoms can occur up to 6 hours after an event, and that there does not have to be a loss of consciousness to have sustained a head injury.

Visit our website www.nhconcussioncenter for more tips and information about concussion and prevention.

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