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Tips for Avoiding Brain Trauma During Winter Sports

January 17, 2018

Skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowmobiling, and ice hockey are examples of popular winter sports and activities. While people of all ages enjoy participating in these winter hobbies, it’s important to recognize the health risks—including brain trauma—associated with them.

“All of these winter sports can cause injuries and brain trauma ranging from mild concussions to more severe concussions to significant intracranial bleeding caused by skull fracture and/or contusions, such as epidural hematoma and other types of hematomas,” explains Bayhealth Neurosurgeon Nasrollah Fatehi, MD, FAANS. “If you fall, or bang your head in any other way, and you have symptoms such as dizziness, headache, not thinking clearly, trouble focusing, etc., you need to go to the ER for a CT scan. If you’ve had any loss of consciousness and/or amnesia it is especially critical that you get to the ER right away.”

Additionally, Dr. Fatehi and Bayhealth Certified Brain Injury Specialist Donna Dixon, LPN, CBIS, say the following tips can help you prevent brain trauma.

  1. Know your level of experience and stay at or below it. “Although there is no foolproof way to prevent them, knowing your limit of expertise can help decrease the rates of injuries and the incidence of traumatic brain injuries,” says Dr. Fatehi.
  2. Wear a helmet and other protective gear. “To help avoid brain trauma, wear helmets and other equipment designed to prevent injury,” says Dixon. “It’s also important to be sure the protective equipment fits properly and is working as intended, and you should wear it at all times, even during practice.”
  3. Take lessons to learn how to fall safely and less often, and on using proper techniques.
  4. Encourage safe play. Avoid direct hits to the head or any other dangerous play that can increase risk of brain trauma. Also discourage aggression in both practice and play.
  5. Pad side posts and side walls for potential impact.
  6. Incorporate neck strengthening exercises into your training regimen. Data shows neck strengthening reduces risk of sport related concussion because stronger neck muscles help cushion against and lessen the forces that cause concussion.
  7. Examine the playing area for uneven surfaces.
  8. Learn the signs and symptoms of a concussion. They include headache; confusion; double or blurred vision; light or sound sensitivity; dizziness/balance problems; nausea and/or vomiting; difficulty remembering or concentrating; feeling sluggish, foggy, or groggy; feeling more emotional; sleep problems (more or less); and loss of consciousness.If you suspect you have a concussion or other brain trauma you need to remove yourself from play, be evaluated by a medical professional, and remain out of play until you’re cleared by a physician,” says Dixon.
  9. Understand the severity of a second impact. Second Impact Syndrome (SIS) is when the brain swells quickly after suffering a second concussion before being fully healed from the previous concussion. The second impact can occur minutes, days, or even weeks after the initial concussion. Even a mild concussion can lead to SIS, which can then lead to severe impairment or even death. That’s why it’s important to wait until you receive medical clearance before you start playing again.

In addition to providing emergency care and treatment for traumatic brain injuries, Bayhealth offers baseline concussion testing for those ages 10 years and older. Call 302-744-7095 to learn more about Bayhealth’s ImPACT concussion testing program. Visit Bayhealth.org/Neurosciences for more information about our Neurosciences department.