Helmets will not keep you from getting concussed

brains-in-helmetsTBI is real for folks who play collision sports. Call it “concussion” or “mild” TBI or whatever else you will. Call it “character building” and “just part of life”.  But brain trauma goes hand-in-hand with slamming your body into other players on a regular basis.

Helmets will not keep brains from slamming against the insides of skulls. They literally can’t.

Coaches and parents need to get real about this, and understand the conditions they are helping to create.

Truly, I do not understand the rationale behind keeping kids playing collision sports — whether they’re young OR older. Helmets give you a false sense of security — which actually makes the situation worse, because a concussed brain can feel like a great brain. I know from many personal experiences, when I hit my head hard enough to alter my consciousness, after an instant of feeling like the lights went dim, when “the lights” came back up, I felt fantastic. Like I was superhuman. I’m not the only one.

As Riki Ellison, a former teammate of Junior Seau who like Seau played middle linebacker at USC and in the NFL, put it:

The fact is that when you receive what I would refer to as a partial but playable concussion, there is a unique feeling of being high, of floating, of being numb to pain and unaware of other distractions. This produces a happy state that translates to a belief of invincibility and a superman complex. In some ways, it acts just like a drug. You become addicted to that feeling and want more of it. And when you get another hit, it feels even better. (read more here)

And as long as kids are wearing helmets, and parents and coaches are thinking that they’re safer because of it, we’re just creating more opportunity for kids to injure themselves — in the short and long term.

I’ve been accused of attacking football. Not really. What I’m guilty of attacking is our willful ignorance about what role concussion plays in our youth sports… and how that affects the well-being and futures of kids who are “safer” wearing the latest headgear.

It’s one thing to not know about the dangers. But when people tell you, plain as day, and you refuse to take note — or do something about it — well, that’s something else, entirely.

And that goes for all collision sports where headgear is supposed to protect the players.

Advertisements

Are they testing the right thing, when they “prove” football helmets help prevent concussion?

Stanford research suggests football helmet tests may not account for concussion-prone actions

Photo by L.A. Cicero – A multiple exposure shows the effect of an impact to the top of the helmet in a laboratory experiment. The dummy head is mounted on a biofidelic neck, and helps to realistically reconstruct field impacts. New Stanford research suggests that current football helmet tests may miss concussion-prone actions.

Mounting evidence suggests that concussions in football are caused by the sudden rotation of the skull. David Camarillo’s lab at Stanford has evidence that suggests current football helmet tests don’t account for these movements.

When modern football helmets were introduced, they all but eliminated traumatic skull fractures caused by blunt force impacts. Mounting evidence, however, suggests that concussions are caused by a different type of head motion, namely brain and skull rotation.

Now, a group of Stanford engineers has produced a collection of results that suggest that current helmet-testing equipment and techniques are not optimized for evaluating these additional injury-causing elements.

The ideal way to test any protective gear is to gain a sense of what causes the trauma, set up a system that replicates the way the trauma occurs, and then evaluate the gear against the injury-causing criteria. For the past several years, David Camarillo, an assistant professor of bioengineering and, by courtesy, of mechanical engineering at Stanford, and his students have been collecting and analyzing data in hopes of identifying the signature skull motions that cause concussions.

Continued on the Stanford Site here: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2015/july/football-helmet-tests-072015.html – click here to keep reading

Aaaannnnddd… Problem solved.

Like mine, but in better condition

I’m glad I didn’t get rid of my old bike — “Old Ironsides” I call it, because it’s an ancient three-speed similar to the one my dad used to ride to work each day. I guess I hung onto it, because it reminds me of those days when my dad was still young and vigorous and had the energy to bike to and from work — and come home for lunch in the summers so we kids could spend time with him.

Anyway, I picked up Old Ironsides one day when I was out doing errands. Where I live, when people don’t have use for things that haven’t yet worn out, they put them out on their curb with a ‘free’ sign, so people will help themselves. I threw Old Ironsides in the back of the van, and it’s been in my basement for the past 11 years or so.

I’ve pulled it out, now and then, to ride around, but it’s an old rattle-trap, with a slightly bent wheel in the front, and a bit of of bumpiness when you ride along. But the brakes work, and the gears still shift. It’s still a solid bike, and I’m glad I hung onto it.

I have been really challenged with my physical fitness, lately. I am lifting weights more deliberately now, and I also spend time each day juggling, which is good for my coordination — and my frustration tolerance. I have an exercise bike, and I ride it sometimes. I also take long walks on the country roads around my home, as well as hike in the woods. But sometimes I need more.

I used to have a really awesome bike — a Specialized Roubaix road bike, which was so light, and so good on bumpy surfaces. It was easy to ride, easy to handle, easy to put in the back of my little car and take wherever I wanted. The thing was, when I had it, I was struggling with balance issues, and I was not doing well with being out and about on my own. Riding my bike on back roads really concerned me, because of traffic and distractions and the potential of falling.

So, I sold the bike to someone who would love and care for it very well. It was a wise choice. But I have missed that bike ever since.

In the past years since I sold it, I have gradually gotten better about my balance and my ability to stay focused on what’s happening in front of me. I am still uncomfortable with the idea of ranging far and wide beyond my home on a bike, because I can’t afford to get hurt and not be able to get home. There are also lots of hills around my house, so it’s a killer workout to ride bikes around here.

But within two miles of my house, there are enough gently rolling hills and enough untraveled back roads that I can ride Old Ironsides on. It really gives me a workout, just pedaling up gentle inclines — let alone the 45-degree slopes not far from my front door. I have enough road to ride, just within a 2 mile radius, to get some exercise, get my blood pumping, and feel the wind rushing past me. Also, my bike is not good enough to go that fast, so the issue of velocity is… negligible.

So, this afternoon, I dragged Old Ironsides out of the garage, hauled it down to the gas station, filled up the tires, found my good bike helmet, threw on a fluorescent orange t-shirt, and took the bike out for a spin. I didn’t have to go far, to tucker myself out — but I also had a good time pedaling and covering some ground. I know it’s not the most advanced piece of machinery, but it got me exactly where I wanted to go, and back, so that’s good.

I’m feeling really positive about this. Another fall is not something I care to experience, and that chance was always in the back of my mind with the other bike. This one is literally incapable of moving at the kind of speed that’s a danger to me. It’s sturdy, solid, and it does the job it’s meant to do — move a person from one place to the next quicker than they could go on foot.

So, I’ve had my exercise for the day, and I’m looking forward to doing it again, when I get some time. Safety first. And then plenty of fun.

Well, it’s time to get some supper.

Onward.

Great Read About Concussion Experience- from the Globe And Mail

Helmets help – put one on

Voyages in Concussion Land: the homeless, Sidney Crosby and me
by Tabatha Southey

Nearly two months ago, I was on a return visit to the emergency room, to deal with a concussion I had sustained during a bike accident. A doctor studied my MRI results for a while and then he talked to me, as another doctor and a nurse had already done, about Sidney Crosby.

Everyone in Concussion Land talks about Sidney Crosby. I heard one brain-injury patient who had been in a car accident several years earlier say, “Thank God for Sidney Crosby. Before Sidney, people just stared at me blankly when I told them about my injury. Sidney put this thing on the map.”

Several people in the waiting room at the clinic nodded. One woman added quietly, “Do you find you’re more emotional now than before your concussion – that you cr …” And before she could finish saying “cry,” all four patients in the room burst into tears. Which I found hilarious, but I was crying too.

Read the whole article here >

Wear your bike helmet – properly

Wear it properly – if you don’t, it’s like you’re not even wearing one

A few months back, I endured participated in a Franklin-Covey workshop at work called “Five Choices to Extraordinary Productivity”. Aside from the three-day investment loss of time (which I really couldn’t afford to lose), the ideas and principles they talked about were a mish-mash of eclectic brain science and some repackaged versions of buzz-speak that’s been floating around in personal improvement circles for years. For those who never heard of any of it, I’m sure it was eye-opening. Perhaps. I found it mildly frustrating and more than a little annoying.

I really needed that time to actually do some work, instead of having someone tell me I’m making “wrong choices” with regard to the work I do. It just wasn’t applicable at all — although I did learn some nifty Outlook techniques that I’ve used to my advantage.

Anyway, not long ago business author Steven Covey (who wrote “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”) died as a result of complications from a bike accident back in April. I wondered what sort of bike accident – must have been pretty bad… then forgot about it.

Then the other day I saw a kid riding a bike with a helmet on — and the chin strap unbuckled and dangling loose. Not much point to having a helmet on, if you’re going to do that. Out of curiosity, and on a hunch, I googled Steven Covey’s bike accident, and I learned that he sustained a head injury when he flipped forward over his bike while going down a hill. His helmet was apparently not properly fitted/fastened, and he hit the ground with his head. He also had broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung.

For heaven’s sake – if you’re going to wear a helmet, make sure you wear it properly. Tighten the strap snugly under your chin and make sure you have a properly fitted helmet.

I don’t know if Covey was wearing his properly or not, and I’m not even sure if it was the brain injury that did him in. But if you’re not wearing your helmet properly, you’re really not wearing a helmet at all.

Enlightening Athletic Warriors

Xenith, makers of protective headgear for football, have published a great paper on the shift taking place in concussion awareness in sports, and the changes they believe are necessary to keep generations of athletes safe — and potentially healthier for the long-term, after they are finished with their student athletic careers.

From the paper:

Playing through an ankle sprain is understandable, but this mentality has been carried too far with regard to concussive episodes. Nerve cells do not heal the way other body tissues heal. In short, no one’s brain is “tough”. Players may come forward to reveal symptoms of a concussive episode, but it remains likely that players will work to stay on the field. It will be up to those around the players to recognize and report injuries.

Certified athletic trainers are often closest to players regarding physical injuries, and are therefore in a logical position to spot concussive episodes, or elicit honest information from players. Efforts to increase or mandate the presence of athletic trainers are certainly likely to result in better injury recognition.

In the absence of certified athletic trainers, coaches, officials, parents, and players still have a role. One concept, promoted by Dr. Gerry Gioia of Children’s National Medical Center, is called “Carry the Clipboard.” The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers free materials, designed to attach to a clipboard, providing a helpful checklist for awareness and management of concussive episodes. Carry the Clipboard suggests that one adult at each sporting event be assigned to carry the CDC information on a clipboard, designating that adult as responsible for recognizing players who appear to be debilitated, and for contacting a local expert.

Even though players may attempt to conceal their own symptoms, their teammates may be valuable partners in reporting a concussive episode. This unique form of honor code creates a team approach to risk reduction. Parents being attuned to their child’s behaviors may be the most critical element.

A major cultural shift is underway, which should lead to increased recognition of concussive episodes. As the veil is lifted on this injury, a significant short term increase in diagnoses may result. Over time, a corresponding decrease in actual injury risk and diagnoses should occur.

Read all of it here:
http://www.xenith.com/mission_control/assets/Uploads/BuildingtheEnlightenedWarrior.pdf

Fourteen Years Later, Someone Finally Got It…

 

Pat LaFontaine shares about his experience at BrainLine

 

I’ve been watching the video on BrainLine – NHL Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine Shares His Story

Hear hockey great Pat LaFontaine recount his story and the steps he took during his recovery after several brain injuries.

It’s a great retelling of a story about how he sustained multiple concussions and could never get answers from anyone… until he was so impacted, it was obvious to everyone that something wasn’t right. It’s also a very telling look into an often hidden world of athletes who know something is wrong, but are told time and time again by doctors and trainers and other expert folks, that they just have a psychological issue and if they just suck it up, they can get back in there and get back to regular play.

Around 19:10 in the video, LaFontaine talks about how he had to keep calling his doctor (the new one who actually had a clue what was going on) to reassure him that the source of his emotions and depression and headaches and not feeling right was physiological. He thought that the doctor was just being nice, because he felt like he was losing his mind.

How true it is.

When you’re going through the disruption of a TBI, you can genuinely feel like you’re going crazy. Things are strange, you don’t feel like yourself, your emotions may be off the charts or completely changed, and nothing seems to be clicking. And trying to get help can be next to impossible, if the doctors you see are not familiar with brain injury/concussion.

This is so important — I wish more doctors and trainers and coaches of student athletes would pay attention to this and keep up to date with the most current research and best practices, so they can not only help people  understand what’s happened to them, but they can also take steps to prevent repeat injuries before healing is complete. Concussions among student athletes is much higher than most guess (and former studies showed), and second subsequent injuries before the brain has healed can be devastating. Second impact can complicate concussion symptoms, and if doctors and coaches and trainers are all pressuring the players to get back in the game and/or telling them that they’re really fine, they can get hurt again — and have even worse problems to deal with after the fact.

I was one of those student athletes who went back in the game after the concussions I sustained, but I’m different from many, in that my coaches and trainers had an eye out for me and kept me out of play (against my will). I was very luck. Lots of student athletes don’t have that same level of vigilance and care.

The one problem was that I’m also one of those folks who never got proper medical care until about three years ago. This was long after the period in which I could file for any sort of assistance or get accurate medical records documenting my injuries — so the chance of me getting any help from any organized sources is slim to none.

I’m on my own.  And even though I have doctors who know about my TBI history, I’m still on my own when it comes to advocating for my own care and well-being. They mean well, I’m sure, but when they tell me that I don’t need to worry about how much sleep I’m getting, because I may not need at least 8 hours a night, it’s not particularly helpful. And when they look you over, plying you with questions about your mood in search of clues about psychologically based depression, completely ignoring the physiological aspects of mood and emotion, well, that’s even more depressing.

I can tell you from personal experience that dealing with post-concussion syndrome is a real bitch, when you have no idea what it is, you think you’re losing your mind, everyone around you is telling you to just “shake it off” — or they have no idea you have anything to shake off, and all they can do is give you a hard time about struggling the way you do. And then you go to the doctor, and they tell you to take a meditation class or relax more or go on vacation to get your mood back in order… this is not helpful, in the case of TBI.

According to the medical/mental health system, without proper medical documentation of my injuries, in the eyes of others, I’m probably mentally ill. All that emotional volatility, the perseveration, the rumination, the difficulties getting started and stopping what I’m doing, the extreme swings in energy levels… Even some of my friends who are psychotherapists have written me off as mentally ill and refusing treatment. These are the same people who have flatly discounted the effect of TBI in my life and claim that all I need is to deal with my difficult childhood to get on with my life.

They’re wrong on so many different levels. Especially about me  refusing treatment — I’m not. I’m actually getting treatment at the level I need — on the neurological level, not on their preferred level. I know that I’m not mentally ill, and so does my neuropsych. And so does every other person who is intimately familiar with TBI and understands the nature of the issues I face on a daily basis. To say it’s maddening to watch the mental health field have a heyday with folks who have been neurologically impacted, would be an understatement. And hearing stories of doctors playing psychotherapist is equally irritating. But at the same time, I can’t let the shortcomings of our “modern” mental health industry impact my own peace of mind and my own mental health.

There’s no sense in that.

So, I seek out answers for myself.  And I share what I find, in hopes that others like me may realize that someone out there actually gets it. They’re are not alone, and there is hope.

Where there is good information and good communication, there is a chance for change.