Have you ever hit your head as a result of a fall, car crash, or other type of activity and just “did not feel right” afterwards? After a few days, you returned to your normal activities, but continued to experience headaches, sensitivity to noise, or difficulty concentrating and remembering things. Does this sound familiar?
A TBI can disrupt the normal functions of the brain. TBIs—ranging from mild concussions to severe, life-threatening injuries—can be prevented. The burden of TBI can be reduced through prevention strategies and improvements in the health and quality of life for people living with a TBI.
Research shows that in the United States:
- males have higher rates of TBI compared to women,
- the youngest children and older adults are at highest risk for sustaining fall-related TBIs,
- adolescents and young adults (persons aged 15–24 years) have the highest rates of motor vehicle-related TBIs, and
- adults aged 65 years or older have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalization and are more likely to die from TBI (either TBI alone or along with other injuries or illnesses) than any other age group.
Throughout most of the United States, January is one of the snowiest months of the year, making winter sports like skiing and snowboarding popular activities. Even in warmer climates, indoor “winter sports” like ice skating and hockey get many people up and moving during January and February.
When they are not practiced safely and with good equipment, winter sports can greatly increase the risk of head injuries leading to traumatic brain injury (TBI). This is why January is recognized as National Winter Sports TBI Awareness Month.
Even a mild concussion or other TBI can cause lingering problems with memory, attention, mood, and motor coordination, as well as headaches and other disabling conditions. Severe brain injuries can cause permanent disability or even death.
How can you help prevent concussions and other traumatic brain injuries while enjoying winter sports? Consider the following tips:
Wear a properly fitted helmet. Helmets can go a long way toward preventing or reducing the severity of a traumatic brain injury. Choose a helmet that fits correctly and is appropriate for the activity.
Take lessons. If you’re going skating, skiing, or snowboarding, basic lessons will help you learn how to fall more safely. They’ll also help you learn how to fall less often, which can also reduce your chances of injury.
Take a break after a head injury. Learn the signs of concussion, and make sure anyone who hits their head – even if the blow seems “mild” – stops playing immediately and is cleared by a doctor before returning to any winter sports.