Health Blog

Heads Up Before Hitting the Slopes

January is National Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury Month. Winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, and even sledding can lead to concussions or worse. Don't let a mishap from playing too hard in the snow spoil your fun. Instead, take precautions that will ensure you and your family's safety all Winter long.

Heads Up Before Hitting the Slopes

Some people prefer to stay inside when the snow starts to fall, but other people like to keep active by participating in numerous winter sports. Whether it's snowboarding, skiing, or sledding, if these words alone get you feeling excited, you must be a winter fanatic! This meaning the second the season turns, temperature drops, and snow begins to flurry; your first instinct is to head directly to the slopes! But wait. Of course, Winter activities are exciting and thrilling, but that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous. From the more advanced sports like ice hockey, skiing, and snowboarding, to the childhood favorites of sledding and snowball fights, the snow can be a great way to keep yourself and your family active. Like any sport, there is a risk for injury, especially if you don't follow the proper safety rules. Don't let a mishap from playing too hard in the snow spoil your fun. Instead, take precautions that will ensure you and your family's safety all Winter long.

Safety First!

January is National Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury Month. Winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, and even sledding can lead to concussions or worse. With going down a hill, picking up speed, the frozen ground, and other people and trees in your path, there's a high chance of falling and hitting your head. Should you lose control and hit your head, please don't ignore it. More importantly, NEVER ignore a possible concussion. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. TBIs can also happen when a fall or blow to the body makes the head and brain move quickly back and forth. While most people with a concussion feel better after a couple of weeks, some people will experience symptoms for months or even longer.

Preventing Concussions 

As we mentioned, skiing and snowboarding can be great for some family bonding in the wintertime. It's also vital to have concussion safety in mind to ensure everyone is staying happy and safe. Knowing what to do and what not to do is especially important if you or someone in your family participates in these sports competitively. Follow these tips to ensure you and your family are as safe as possible when lacing up and hitting the mountains this season.

  1. You NEED the proper equipment! Wearing the right helmet and gear is key to preventing an injury. While there is no concussion-proof helmet, a helmet can help protect your child or teen from a severe brain or head injury. Even with a helmet, you need to avoid hits to the head. Luckily, the CDC offers specific guidelines regarding protective equipment and helmets for skiing and snowboarding. Generally, helmets should fit snugly, with no space between the head and helmet.
  2. Now that you have the equipment, next up is the correct attire. When it comes to the best slope attire, look for fabric that is both wind and water-resistant. This helps keep you warm during harsh winter weather. According to the International Concussion Society, you should purchase attire that contains wind flaps for zippers, collars that can be fastened up to the chin, and drawstrings that can keep out cold winds, and secured cuffs at the wrists and ankles.
  3. Gear, check. It's time to learn how to ski. If you're new to the slopes, take a lesson from a qualified instructor. According to the National Ski Protocol, taking a class from a professional can guarantee you will be well on your way to becoming a good, and safe, skier/snowboarder. Building the proper fundamentals early on will help you avoid bad habits that could lead to an injury, now and in the future. If you aren't a beginner, know your limits. Don't feel like you have to push yourself to take on a more challenging slope. Always take the safe route until you feel more comfortable.
  4. Always check the weather before heading out! You must prepare yourself for whatever Winter brings your way. Weather can be deceiving, as you know. It can appear sunny at first, then can cool down rapidly, leading to icy conditions. And vice versa. It might be frigid, and then boom, the sun will pop out. Being ready for these confusing weather changes can ensure you are as safe as possible. Always pack gloves and a headband or hat if you need a little extra warmth to your attire. It would also be best if you had goggles on hand and sunglasses to avoid being blinded by unexpected sunny conditions.

What to do if you fall

Did you know TBIs can range from mild concussions to severe, life-threatening injuries? If you think you or your child may have a concussion or TBI, it is crucial to stop physical activity. It would be best if you observed them very closely during minutes to hours following the accident. In most concussions and milder injuries, symptoms typically lessen over several minutes to hours. But if their symptoms worsen or their level of consciousness declines, they need to go to the ER immediately. Getting help soon after the injury can help speed recovery. It is imperative to recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion as early as possible, which include:

  • Headache
  • Fuzzy or blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting after injury
  • Balance problems
  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering new information
  • Feeling slowed down

Know that some of these symptoms may occur at the time of the injury, while you may not notice other symptoms until after they return to everyday life.

When problems in the neurological system arise, our specialists at The Child Neurology Group will diagnose and treat the problem with the most advanced, state-of-the-art care available. Our team includes Dr. Richard Simmons, who is board-certified in Neurology with special certification in Child Neurology. He received his medical degree at Drexel University in Philadelphia and completed his Neurology and Child Neurology residency training at SUNY Buffalo and the Women's and Child's Hospital of Buffalo. Another member of our care team is Steven Hicks, PA-C. Steven a graduate of the Albany-Hudson Valley Physician Assistant Program and completed an internship in neurology at Ellis Hospital. He provides neurological care for pediatric patients and has extensive experience in research surrounding neurological conditions. We combine our special expertise with an understanding of the special needs of children and their families to provide you with the best possible care.

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