Why Helmets Matter
The Brain Injury Resource Center states that “an estimated 300,000 sports related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), of mild to moderate severity, most of which can be classified as concussions (i.e., conditions of temporary altered mental status as a result of head trauma), occur in the United States each year.” A TBI results from a bump, blow or jolt to the head, or from a penetrating head injury, that disrupts the normal function of the brain.
“Of all types of injury, those to the brain are among the most likely to result in death or permanent disability” notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The International Brain Injury Association states that “Brain Injury can cause many kinds of physical, cognitive, and behavioral/emotional impairments that may be either temporary or permanent. Impairments may range from subtle to severe. Brain injury may result in seizure disorders.”
Whether you participate in Equestrian Sports, Cycling, Skiing/Snowboarding, Football, Hockey, Baseball or Skateboarding, wearing a helmet can reduce your chances of sustaining serious injury. One of the most important pieces of safety equipment athletes in any of the above sports can own is a properly fitting helmet in order to absorb the impact to the head, provide cushioning to the skull and reduce jarring of the brain against the skull. It should be noted that helmets must be appropriate for the sport in which the athlete is participating and must also be correctly fitted to be of benefit.
Types of Head Injuries
1) Concussions - defined as “injury to the brain caused by a hard blow or violent shaking within the skull, causing a sudden and temporary impairment of brain function, such as a short loss of consciousness or disturbance of vision and equilibrium.” If a concussion is severe enough it can cause shearing injuries to nerve fibers and neurons.
Symptoms of Concussions:
- Blurry vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Memory or concentration problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Sensitivity to light/noise
2) Coma – defined as “a state of deep and often prolonged unconsciousness; usually the result of disease or injury”.
Symptoms of brain injury (from American Association Neurological Surgeons):
- Pain: Constant or recurring headache
- Motor Dysfunction: Inability to control or coordinate motor functions, or disturbance with balance
- Sensory: Changes in ability to hear, taste or see; dizziness; hypersensitivity to light or sound
- Cognitive: Shortened attention span; easily distracted; overstimulated by environment; difficulty staying focused on a task, following directions or understanding information; feeling of disorientation and confusion and other neuropsychological deficiencies.
- Speech: Difficulty finding the “right” word; difficulty expressing words or thoughts; dysarthric speech.