January is National Sports/Winter Sports TBI Awareness Month. TBI stands for Traumatic Brain Injury. This month is meant to shed light on concussions and other brain injuries sustained during sports, specifically that of winter sports. Traumatic brain injury occurs when a trauma, such as a fall, head injury, or car crash, causes damage to the way the brain functions. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, approximately 1.7 million TBIs occur each year in the US, resulting in 52,000 deaths and 275,000 hospitalizations. TBI is usually misdiagnosed which often causes complications or the death of the patient.
Football & hockey are most commonly associated with these types of injuries however skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and snowmobiling also can cause significant damage. A 10-year study by the International Federation of Skiing documented 320 concussions sustained by athletes in the disciplines of alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, and ski jumping.
The National Ski Areas Association has provided the following tips for staying safe on the slopes this winter:
- Always wear a helmet! Make sure that the helmet fits properly and that you fasten the chin strap. You want to be sure to have a proper winter activity helmet, not a bicycle helmet. Ski & snowboard helmets have specific features geared towards those activities
- Wear the proper size skis. Larger skis may be harder to control. Speak to a professional in order to pick the appropriate size skis for your body type
- Have proper bindings which keep your boots to the skis or snowboard. Binds should be able to release your foot but not too easily & should be adjusted by a professional
- Boots should fit correctly, not too big or too tight. Your boots should also be warm and should be secured to the skis or snowboard
- Like skis, poles should be of appropriate length and should have looped straps which go around your wrists
In the event that an injury does occur, be sure to seek medical attention immediately. Do not continue with the sport or activity until cleared by a medical professional. Rest is the best form of treatment when it comes to a concussion. This will allow the brain to better recover and prevent further damage. You may be advised to abstain from physical activity and even activities which require you to focus or learn new concepts. This may involve working less hours or shortening your school days. As symptoms begin to improve, you may gradually increase activity level as advised by your doctor. Keep in mind that repeated blows to the head can lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. This is a progressive, degenerative disease that has been linked to memory loss, impaired judgment, insomnia, dementia, and severe depression. Follow the tips above & always err on the side of caution when participating in vigorous winter activities.
As with most sports & activities, you should get yourself in shape prior to hitting the slopes. You can’t ski your way into shape and you will enjoy it much more if you’re physically fit. Come to The Arena & train with our strength & conditioning coaches who can get you in great shape for the slopes & throughout the whole year.
By Gina Stallone CPT