Concussion and other head injuries have been a hot topic in sports medicine over the last several years,
and with good reason. According to the CDC, approximately 3.8 million concussions occur each year and
can result in long term problems such as chronic headaches, memory problems, even depression and
other emotional problems. Football and soccer receive a lot of attention because of high rates of
concussion and high rates of participation across the US, but concussions and other head injuries can
occur in any sport. I once took care of a golfer that sustained a concussion. Following are a few tips to
prevent and manage head injury.
Helmets and mouth guards do not prevent concussion. HOWEVER!!! They are vital to protecting an
athlete’s teeth and jaw from fracture, and preventing brain bleeds and skull fractures. It is important
that they are comfortable to wear, to increase the likelihood that an athlete will actually use them.
Helmets should fit tight so they aren’t sliding out of position or falling off, thus reducing or eliminating
any protective benefit. Ski/snowboard helmets have an added bonus of being super warm.
Not all head injuries are concussions, but all concussions are potentially serious. If you take a hit to the
head, or even feel shaken up after a fall or collision with or without a hit to the head, it is important to
take a break from your activity and allow symptoms to subside. The risk of long term complications from concussion goes up with not allowing your brain to recover from an injury or sustaining another brain injury before being fully recovered. It is important to follow up with your doctor or another health care professional after a head injury or if you think you’ve sustained a concussion.
Play with respect to prevent injury. When you’re on the slopes, ski/ride in control and watch your speed
in crowded areas. Keep your head up and be aware of others around you. The same goes for hockey:
keep your head up and be aware of where other players are. Be careful of making contact with other
players close to the boards. If you’re carrying the puck- keep your head up! Conversely, a player that is
staring at the puck deserves to have the puck stolen, not be taken down with a big hit.
In closing, go out and play, but play smart. If you do sustain a head injury, make sure to check with a
health care professional. For serious injury, or symptoms such as severe headache, vision change,
vomiting, confusion, loss of consciousness or lethargy, or weakness go to the ER or call 911.