Learn from the Olympians – A Helmet Can Prevent Concussions and Save Lives

What do the Olympic snowboarders, skiers, sledders, and hockey players all have in common? Win, lose, or draw – they all wear helmets.

If you have been watching the 2014 Winter Olympics as I have, you have seen some nasty skiing, sledding, and snowboarding “wipe outs.” I personally saw one of the athletes crack her helmet as she hit the ground. I bet it saved her life – even if she still got a concussion out of the deal.

With that being said, we’ve heard a lot about concussions lately. If you watched the Super Bowl and other NFL games this past season, you heard the word concussion plenty of times. In years past, we would often “blow off” minor head injuries that may have been true concussions, but these days, we take concussions much more seriously. And we do this for an important reason – the research has clearly shown that concussions need to be taken very seriously, diagnosed accurately, and treated appropriately.

At the “end of the day” we need to be doing everything in our power to prevent concussions in ourselves and our kids – and hence the column about helmets…

The Olympics – and most importantly the Olympic crashes and wipeouts – highlight the need for children – and parents – to wear their helmets when engaging in activities that could result in head injuries. We simply need to take the appropriate precautions when we engage in sports and endeavors that could place us in harm’s way. Your mother was right – it’s simply better to be safe than sorry.

Take it from a guy whose bonked his head a few times – and gotten very lucky – helmet use is very important. No matter what your age or level of experience, whenever you bike, inline skate, skateboard, ski, snowboard, sled, or engage in other activity where your head is vulnerable to injury, you should wear a helmet.

Why wear a helmet?

Cuts, bruises, sprains, and even broken bones will heal, but damage to your brain can last a lifetime. In an instant your head can smack the street, sidewalk, curb, a car, tree or anything else around you. Some of the most tragic cases that I have seen are closed head injuries and concussions. Sadly, many would have been prevented if a helmet was worn.

How do helmets protect you?

When you fall or crash the helmet absorbs much of the impact that would otherwise cause a bruise, concussion, skull fracture, or serious brain injury. Thick plastic foam inside the hard outer shell of your helmet cushions the blow. The helmet essentially “takes the hit” instead of your head.

Here are some keys to choosing an appropriate helmet:

  • Choose the right helmet for the right sport.
  • The helmet should be snug: It does not slide from side-to-side or front-to-back.
  • The helmet should be level: It is square on top of your head, covering the top of the forehead. It does not tilt in any direction.
  • The helmet should be stable: The chinstrap keeps the helmet from rocking in any direction.
    Choose a bright, colorful one that everyone will see and respect!

Children and helmets

Young children are particularly vulnerable to head injuries. They have proportionally larger heads and higher centers of gravity, and their coordination is not fully developed. It is more difficult for children to avoid obstacles when biking, sledding, in-line skating, skiing, or doing other activities.

Tips to help children understand the importance of wearing helmets:

  • Teach by example: Always use your helmet when playing sports with potential for collision.
  • Buy a helmet that fits your child now – don’t try to skimp by buying one to “grow into.”
  • Be aware that your child is more likely to wear a helmet if he or she likes the way it looks.

Oh, and parents – remember that it’s not just the kids who need to wear their helmet. Let’s all take a lesson from the Olympians and wear our helmets!

Enjoy the rest of the Olympics – and just like an Olympian – be a winner, first and foremost, by being smart and be safe.

Snowboarder’s helmet probably saved her life at Sochi Olympics!
Still think that helmets don’t matter for skiing or snowboarding? Just ask Czech snowboarder Sarka Pancochova, who took a nasty fall during the inaugural women’s slope style snowboarding competition on Feb 9th, 2014.

Sarka Pancochova missed a landing during the competition and landed on her back. She tumbled to the bottom of the hill where she lay motionless for a couple of minutes. She was attended to by the medical staff who found that she cracked her helmet in half!

Czech snowboarder Sarka Pancochova cracked her helmet during the women's slope style competition on Feb 9th, 2014.

Czech snowboarder Sarka Pancochova cracked her helmet during the women’s slope style competition on Feb 9th, 2014.

She was able to board down the hill, but was visibly shaken up, as could be seen by the cameras. There were speculations as to an injury, but there is no doubt in my mind that she suffered a concussion.

Helmet use during skiing or snowboarding has luckily risen dramatically over the past 10 years. Seventy percent of all current skiers or snowboarders in the United States wear helmets now. Helmet use came to full light earlier this year when racing legend Michael Schumacher suffered a traumatic brain injury when he fell and hit his head on a rock while skiing at a resort in Meribel, France. He WAS wearing a helmet. In fact, the National Ski Areas Association have published data, that although helmet use is up, it has not correlated with a decrease rate of injuries.

Many reasons have been stated as to why the injuries keep on rising despite the increased helmet use. The main one is that skiers and snowboarders are doing more difficult maneuvers than ever before that increases the overall risk of the sport dramatically, despite the use of helmets. In addition, the increase in back country skiing or boarding has also increased the risk of the sport. As for Michael Schumacher, even though he suffered a traumatic brain injury while wearing a helmet, he would have died if not wearing one.

In my opinion, Sarka Pancochova’s helmet also saved her life in Sochi!

The take home point? Wear your helmet while skiing or snowboarding! Helmets can prevent injuries. They keep your head nice and warm while you are outside and even come with built in wireless speakers so you can carve up the course in style!!

Stay safe and be smart…
Performance Orthopedics — Keeping You In The Game, Whatever Your Game May Be!!