Protect your brain
March 26, 2002
Congratulations to Pat O’Donnell and the Aspen Skiing Co. for taking the lead and heading the ski industry in a new direction with its plan to require helmets for all snowboard-ski school students under 12 years of age. Hopefully this will continue to bolster the national trend toward helmet use.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) defines a spectrum of injury to the most important aspect of our being. It ranges from a “mild” concussion without a loss of consciousness to severe destruction of brain tissue.
Unfortunately, all injuries are cumulative. In other words, you never return to your baseline and a second injury (even if it was of the same magnitude as the first) will result in a further decrement in function. Whether you are riding a bicycle, a skateboard, or participating in snow sports, it only makes sense to protect your brain.
I believe that at least three of the deaths that have occurred this year would have been prevented by the use of helmets. Remember that in one of those incidents the victim only hit her head on the snow. After being rendered unconscious, she was not able to prevent her tragic and fatal slide down the slope.
Remember, helmets will not prevent a TBI but they will reduce the extent of injury by dissipating some of the force of the impact. An injury that usually leads to a severe bleed into to the substance of the brain may be reduced to a lesser bleed or a severe concussion, while a severe concussion may be reduced to a mild concussion or headache, with the use of a helmet.
Even if wearing a helmet only prevents a concussion, that alone can be a major benefit. Approximately 12 to 20 percent of patients who have a concussion will develop a post-concussive syndrome. This may be transient or lifelong and is manifested by headaches, difficulty concentrating, irritability and alterations in sense of smell.
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We only have one brain and, as yet, in spite of the advances in neurosurgery, we do not have the tools to repair damage. Protect it!
William J. Rodman, M.D., FACS
Director of trauma
Aspen Valley Hospital