Winter Sport Safety Tips for Avoiding Traumatic Head Injuries

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It should come as no surprise that the brain is the most important organ in the human body. And like any part of the human body, you can injure it.  

A traumatic head injury is an injury that occurs due to forces acting on the head, such as a blow or a jolt. Consequently, your brain function is impacted. You may feel dizzy or weak or have difficulty moving or coordinating movement. You may have trouble remembering things, solving problems, or concentrating. Your vision and hearing may also become more sensitive.

And an injury to the brain doesn’t just impact your day-to-day; it can change your life. Ultimately, recovery takes time. In severe cases, an individual may never fully recover.

You’ve likely heard about them in the news: Hockey concussions are some of the more commonly broadcasted traumatic head injuries. In fact, winter sports account for over 16 000 head injuries in the United States every year.

The winter, in particular, is known for its more dangerous and thrill-seeking activities. And winter sports injuries aren’t exactly uncommon. There’s ice sports, skiing, sledding, snowboarding, and snowmobiling - all which come with a high amount of risk.

That’s why January is the National Winter Sports TBI Awareness Month. However, that doesn’t mean January is the only time of the year to pay attention to winter sports injuries or prevention. Below are ways to lower your risk of injury no matter what activities you take part in.

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Your Winter Sports Injury Prevention Guide

Being aware of winter sports injury prevention is critical to preventing traumatic head injuries and other winter sports injuries. While there is always a risk of an injury occurring, you can drastically reduce it.

So, what can you do to prevent hockey concussions and other winter sports injuries affecting your head?

Here are 5 winter sports safety tips to prevent a traumatic head injury:

1. Wear a Helmet to Avoid Winter Sports Injuries

This is non-negotiable. Wearing a helmet also happens to be one of the best winter sports safety tips you can follow to protect your brain. If you fall and hit your head, a helmet absorbs all or part of the impact energy.

It is equally important to make sure your helmet fits properly. A helmet that is loose and could go flying off during a fall isn’t doing you any good. An appropriate helmet should fit snugly around your head so as to be effective at winter sports injury prevention. So before you tie up those skates or put on your ski boots, make sure you have a helmet. Also, make sure it’s the right size, as well as check to ensure it is done up correctly.

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2. Know the Signs of a Traumatic Head Injury

As soon as you notice any sign of a head injury, stop your activity and seek out immediate medical attention. If you hit your head during a fall and notice any of the following symptoms, get help as soon as you can:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • Lack of coordination or a loss of balance
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Sensitivity to light or sound

Why seek out help ASAP? What may seem like a typical winter sports injury could be more serious than you think. And if you fall again, experiencing a second head injury could result in a far worse situation - and a much longer recovery.

3. Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Know your ski trail or snowmobile trail. What are the possible hazards? Winter sport safety tips should always include the need to be proactive and constantly aware of what you are doing.

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When skating, keep your eyes ahead and prepare for any grooves or notches in the ice. When skiing, stay toward the center of the hill and avoid going off the marked trails. In addition, don’t wear headphones during these activities. They create an unnecessary distraction which could result in a wide range of winter sports injuries.

4. Take Lessons Before You End Up With a Hockey Concussion or Other Sports Injury

If you’re learning a new sport - such as skating or skiing - pay for proper lessons. An expert can show you the ropes and the proper precautions to help you avoid winter sports injuries. And always make sure to start slow. If you’re just learning to ski, don’t plan on doing jumps or tricks anytime soon. Ease into it. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Know your limits.

5. Seek Out Medical Care and Physical Therapy if you Do Sustain an Injury

Early detection and treatment is important in a safe and quick recovery. If you sustain a head injury – even a minor one – make sure to get checked out by a physician and physical therapist. Many times injuries like concussions are missed and go untreated for far too long. Be proactive and not reactive.

January marks National Winter Sports TBI Awareness Month. Have fun, but know the signs and wear the necessary protective gear. You only get one brain!

Combined with the tips above, working with a physical therapist can improve your pace of recovery and help prevent future winter sports injuries. To find a physical therapist near you, use the BetterPT website or download the mobile app. With the guidance of a professional and implementation of these winter sport safety tips, you can lower your risk and protect your ‘noggin!

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