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Head for Cover… The Value of Sports Safety Gear

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Head for Cover… The Value of Sports Safety Gear

Fox Valley Orthopedics’ Dr. Popp Encourages Parents to Promote Winter Sports Safety Awareness

Since a brain injury in December 2013, Michael Schumacher has been in an induced coma. The seven-time Formula 1 world champion racecar driver struck his head on a rock while skiing in the French Alps. In early February, Sarka Pancochova – a competitor at the 2014 Winter Olympics – misjudged a jump and smashed her head violently into the snow. Pancochova’s helmet split apart, but the snowboarder was uninjured thanks to her helmet.

These recent sports accidents have brought the reality of the potential for serious head injuries into the spotlight. Dr. Craig A. Popp – a sub-specialized and fellowship-trained spine surgeon at Fox Valley Orthopedics – encourages parents to teach active kids about the importance of sporting protective headgear, and using other sports safety precautions when involved in winter sports to prevent head, neck, and spinal injuries.

Every year, approximately 1.5 million Americans sustain traumatic brain injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a leading cause of death – approximately 50,000 yearly – and disability among children and young adults; following a brain injury, an estimated 90,000 people a year experience the onset of long-term disability.

“These highly-televised accidents remind us of the potential for serious brain, neck, and spine injuries during winter sports play,” says Dr. Popp. “And while the brain needs special protection, other injuries can be just as traumatic.”

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) reports that common winter sports injuries – including sprains, strains, dislocations, and fractures – often occur at the end of the day, when people are tired, and have overexerted themselves.

8 Winter Sports Safety Tips

But there is a great deal you can do to help your child stay safe during winter sports activities:

  • Children should always wear appropriate, certified protective gear, including goggles, helmets, gloves and padding.
  • Never allow your youngster to participate in a winter sport alone; going with a group or using the buddy system is best.
  • Make sure your child knows and obeys the rules of the sport in which she or he is participating.
  • Have your child take lessons from a qualified instructor, especially in sports such as skiing and snow boarding. Learning how to fall correctly and safely can reduce injury risk.
  • Encourage your child to use good judgment, and avoid dangerous situations or attempting feats beyond his or her abilities.
  • Ensure recreational areas are checked for potentially dangerous elements such as protruding fence posts, or rocky strewn slopes, and always heed weather warnings.
  • Make sure your youngster is aware of proper procedures for getting help, if an injury occurs.
  • Don’t let your child participate in sports when he or she is exhausted or in pain.

To protect your child’s health, know what symptoms to monitor if your child does have a fall this winter…even a simple one, if it involves the head. Seek the advice of a physician if your child experiences the following symptoms:

  • Balancing problems
  • Distinct mood swings
  • Double vision
  • Memory problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Prolonged dizziness or vertigo
  • Significant or prolonged headaches
  • Sleep problems

Urgent attention is necessary following any head trauma when there is a sustained loss of consciousness, progressive neurological symptoms, or arm or leg weakness.