Head Injuries - Concussions
What is it?
This can be the most life threatening injury experienced on the slopes. At best, a skier may experience a bump on their head but in more severe cases, a concussion may occur.
A concussion is a generic term for a brain injury sustained after a blow to the head and or neck. The intensity and presentation in concussions vary between each individual, and need to be taken very seriously.
Signs and Symptoms
A multitude of symptoms can appear after a contact injury to the head. They fall into 4 categories: physical problems, cognitive impairments, behavioral changes and sleep disturbances.
- Physical problems: This includes neck pain, headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, balance difficulties, loss of consciousness
- Cognitive Impairment: slower reaction times, confusion, difficulty concentrating, amnesia (memory loss), feeling ‘foggy’, pressure into head.
- Behavioural Changes: Feelings of not being ‘yourself’, irritability, nervousness, anxiousness, unusually emotional
If you are experiencing 1 or many within each of the categories listed, a concussion should be suspected. Be sure to see your physician or physiotherapist as soon as possible.
What to do about it?
If you have experienced a head injury on the slopes, it is crucial to your healing process to give yourself both physical and mental rest. This means no training, exercises, weight lifting, or playing. Be aware of your exertion level when performing activities of daily living, such as chores, driving, cooking/cleaning. Cognitive rest refers to activities that require attention and concentration, which includes scholastic work, videogames, text message, or excessive screen time. These activities may exacerbate symptoms and may possibly delay recovery.
If you are an active individual and play recreational or competitive sports and have experienced a concussion, be sure to seek treatment from a physiotherapist. They will have the tool and expertise to assess and properly treat your concussion symptoms, and help you to slowly and safely return to your sport of interest, with a Graded Return to Play Protocol.
How to prevent a concussion on the hill?
- WEAR A HELMET: At all times, even on the bunny hills. Even when your speed is slow, a contract injury or quick fall on the head is never impossible on the hills. Wear a helmet that has been fitted to your head.
- Avoid listening to music while skiing/snowboarding: being distracted on the hills is one of the top reasons for head injuries on the hills. Be aware of your surroundings are stay safe.
- Avoid back country/unmarked trails: with trees as obstacles in a downward trajectory, contact head injuries are much higher risk. Stay on marked trails with open tracks and minimal obstacles.
- Wear contacts/glasses/and eye protection: If you cannot see because of the blinding snow reflecting light, or because you do not have on prescription lenses, falls risk increases as well as contact with other skiers.