January is Winter Sports and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Awareness Month. The purpose of the designation is to raise awareness regarding the risks athletes face when they participate in winter sports.
Skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey, sledding and ice skating are all sports in which concussions and TBI occur. However, snowboarding and skiing–especially freestyle skiing which involves jumps and big hills–are particularly risky. A 2013 study out of Norway found TBI to be the leading cause of death for competitive skiers and snowboarders. An informal study conducted by ski resorts in Taos, New Mexico, found the same results for all classes of snowboarders.
Your Denver personal injury attorney believes that the high number of concussions and TBIs in the sport of snowboarding may be due to a combination of factors unique to this relatively new sport. One is the incredibly dangerous tricks people attempt. Many people try to imitate what they see competitive boarders do without the proper training.
Another reason for the high incidence of concussions and TBIs is that the sport is largely one of the young people, and young people tend to think they are invincible — they won’t wear proper protective equipment (a helmet), they attempt things beyond their ability, and they don’t think about long-term consequences.
In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) partnered with the NFL, USA Hockey, and US Ski and Snowboarding Association, as well as other national organizations to start the “Heads Up” educational program. The CDC encourages coaches and parents to follow a 4-step action plan when a concussion or TBI is suspected.
The first step is to remove an athlete with a suspected concussion/TBI from play. The second step is to ensure that the athlete is evaluated by a healthcare professional who is experienced in evaluating concussions and TBIs. The third step is to inform the athlete’s parent/guardian about the possible concussion and give the parent/guardian information on what to look for and what to do.
The fourth step in the action plan is one that is most often ignored: keep the athlete out of play until a healthcare professional determines that the player is ready to return. Many times, it is engaging in the sport too soon after a concussion or head trauma that does the most damage. What would have been a relatively minor concussion becomes a major TBI with a long-term impact on a person’s health when they return to the sport before the concussion or head trauma is fully resolved.
In addition to the educational program, experts recommend that skiers and snowboarders be aware of their surroundings and stay on marked ski and snowboard trails. Equally important is staying on trails that are at your level of expertise and always stay in control. Focusing on good technique by taking lessons and training will help to maintain control and minimize accidents.
Know the signs and symptoms of a concussion/TBI:
- headache/sensitivity to light and sound
- nausea and/or vomiting
- change in reaction time and coordination
- loss of consciousness (in less than 10 percent)
You only need to experience one or two of these to likely have a concussion/TBI.
If you have any questions regarding concussions/TBIs, or if you have suffered head trauma during a winter sport recently and want to know your legal rights, contact Jordan Levine at the Levine Law Firm.