Unlike other parts of the country, many Minnesotans actually look forward to the winter months because of all the opportunities for activities the cold weather brings. The Land of 10,000 Lakes becomes the Land of 10,000 outdoor ice rinks, and skiers and snowmobiles rejoice at the fresh powder on the trails.
These winter sports can be a lot of fun, but the frozen ground can be less than forgiving in the event you take a tumble. In an effort to reduce concussions and severe head injuries resulting from cold weather activities, January has been dubbed Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness and Prevention Month.
Winter Sports TBI
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, more than 1.7 million people suffer a traumatic brain injury each year. Some suffer mild concussions, while others suffer much more severe head trauma that can leave them permanently affected. For some, the trauma is fatal, as more than 50,000 die as a result of traumatic brain injury. Obviously not all of those TBIs are caused by winter sports, but they do send thousands of people to the emergency room each year.
In fact, we need only look to the Winter Olympics to get a sense of how dangerous winter sports can be. Back in 2010, Nodar Kumaritashvili lost his life during a fatal training run in preparation for the Winter Games. He became the fourth Winter Olympian to lose his life in the history of the games, and many more have suffered non-fatal traumatic brain injuries in their quest to bring home the gold.
Winter Sport TBI Prevention
Preventing traumatic brain injuries while partaking in winter sports comes down to common sense and risk aversion, but there are other factors at play as well. Some tips to help keep you safe this winter include:
- Always wear a helmet when on the ice or the slopes.
- Don’t try dangerous jumps, be it on ice or snow, if you aren’t sure of your ability.
- Watch for other skiers or sledders while on the hill, or establish a no-checking rule during a pickup hockey game.
- Never participate in winter sports under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- If you or someone you know suffers an injury to the head or neck, do not move them and call for professional help.
- If you have symptoms of a concussion, like headache, blurred vision or difficulty sleeping, contact a doctor, and don’t return to activity until you’ve been cleared.
To learn more about Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness and Prevention month, head on over to the Johnny O Organization, as they are working to spread the word about preventing head injuries during winter sports.