Concussions Are on the Rise: Here’s What You Need to Know

Right after the bail, pro snowboarder Mikey Pederson’s first thought was that he couldn’t remember if he was in a relationship or not. Five minutes later he still had no idea – ‘single’ or ‘taken’? Eventually, he had to just make the call: ”Oh hi, umm … are we dating?”

By Jess Smith

Memory loss is one of the most distinct, indicative and profound symptoms of a concussion, the most common type of traumatic brain injury that occurs practically every day in action sports towns like Whistler, where people ride hard and fall harder. Forgetting relationship status (thank god for Facebook!), the date, year or even one’s own name are all signs of a concussion.

BarnesConcussiona
Dave Barnes Illustration

 

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Dr. Michael Evans is a family physician, professor, radio host, health columnist and author. He equates concussion with a spilled filing cabinet. “Sometimes when your brain gets rocked a bit, it’s like a file cabinet that gets knocked over, files get spilt onto the floor, thoughts get scrambled and sometimes the memory files just get lost, so you might not even remember the accident.”

Another concussion victim, a skier called Lucky (not his real name) over-rotated a cork 10, landed on his head, and suffered his third concussion. “I cracked my helmet and ended up knocked out for about ten minutes, and had no memory of the event for a year or so,” he says. “I didn’t know I had a sister, a girlfriend, quite a few things were gone from memory for a few days around that crash.”

“I cracked my helmet and ended up knocked out for about ten minutes, and had no memory of the event for a year or so,” he says. “I didn’t know I had a sister, a girlfriend, quite a few things were gone from memory for a few days around that crash.”

”Sports concussions typically occur from either direct trauma, during which the brain moves violently within the skull, or indirect trauma such as a whiplash or blow to the face,” says Bianca Matheson, physiotherapist at Whistler’s Back in Action Physiotherapy. She adds that feelings of memory loss or confusion can occur as a result of all the brain cells firing at once, causing overheated brain activity similar to a seizure.

Pederson says he has been hit by intense confusion and episodes similar to déjà vu. “Whenever I get knocked out I have an identical recurring dream and chain of thoughts, every time,” he says. “When that confusion fades I always forget what those thoughts were about but I know they were the exact same as the last time I bounced my brain off my skull.”

Working with Olympic and national teams as well as hard charging Whistler locals, Matheson has seen the incidence of concussion increasing, “particularly in sports like pipe, slopestyle, boarder or skier-cross and big mountain riding.” She says that concussions can still occur while wearing a helmet or without being knocked out. And the injury can still have long-term complications.

“Have someone ask you questions about the day; what you had for lunch, the time, what runs or jumps you’ve done. Three-point recall is also helpful: remembering three words 15-20 minutes later, and checking balance by standing on one foot for 20 seconds.”

“It’s important to rest if you think you or your friend has a concussion,” she says. “Have someone ask you questions about the day; what you had for lunch, the time, what runs or jumps you’ve done. Three-point recall is also helpful: remembering three words 15-20 minutes later, and checking balance by standing on one foot for 20 seconds.”

If you can’t complete these tests, or start feeling nauseous, dizzy, or irritable, be sure to get to a doctor or hospital right away. The hot mess that has occurred in your brain can kick off a number of other serious issues such as depression, seizures and serious neurological complications. Professional hockey and football players (with their private team doctors and zillion dollar contracts) are taking blows to the head very seriously these days. So should we.

Both Matheson and Evans agree the take-home message is BE CAREFUL. A simple bump to the noggin may not be so simple and if you have to ask your girlfriend if she’s your girlfriend or not, be sure to ask the right girl. The last thing you need is another blow to the head.

 


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