Helmet Concussion

    by Ann Pudwell

    Let us not confuse concussion awareness with deciding on whether or not to wear a helmet.

    Lately, we have heard a lot of information about a helmet’s inability to prevent a concussion. This is a very complex discussion and we do need to make sure that we have all the facts prior to making a decision.

    If we look at the skull as nature’s original helmet, protecting the brain – our most vital organ – it is a layer of bone approximately the thickness of two pennies, or a quarter inch. It is not a smooth surface, but has ridges and even some sharp bone protrusions.

    The brain can be compared to a gelatin-like substance that floats in fluid inside the skull. On impact, the brain bounces inside the skull, knocking itself back and forth, smashing itself on the skull. This can cause bruises, cuts, tears, and even brain bleeds. This damage may result in many injuries; concussion, hemorrhage, unconsciousness or a headache.

    These injuries could take a day, a week, or a month to recover from, or could be something you may never recover from.  This can happen as a result of a whiplash injury in a motor vehicle collision. This can result during a hockey game, from a check. This can also happen from being thrown off a bicycle as a result of an impact. Falls cause the highest number of concussions presented in emergency departments.

    “Falls” is a catch-all name for many situations including sporting events, slipping on ice, falling down stairs or off a ladder – many situations that can occur during normal everyday activities in life. Helmets protect the skull from further damage, keeping the skull intact and lessening the severity of traumatic injury. Once brain tissue is dead it does not regenerate.

    The research has been done and experts agree that helmets reduce the severity of brain injuries and save lives. The work continues. How do we improve helmets? How do we manufacture sports-specific helmets to prevent and/or reduce the severity of brain injuries? It is not a time to stop wearing protective gear; it is a time to look at the gear, the activity and what specific developments need to be designed in the future. Adults are one of the most important role models that children have, so when your family is participating in recreational activities this spring and summer consider what the recommended gear is and wear it. We have come a long way in managing the risks that come with enjoying life, so let’s keep it up.

    News from the South Eastern Alberta Safety Traffic Coalition (a Medicine Hat-area group interested in promoting traffic safety) will be adding a new interactive public demonstration to their events. The Simulated Impaired DriviNg Experience, SIDNE is a remote radio-controlled cart designed to show drivers how their ability to operate a vehicle changes with the influence of alcohol.

    The group also hopes that participants will be able to transfer the demonstration into the other activities like using an ATV or a motor boat. We need to look at the culture of alcohol and how it would seem that no one can have a really good time unless alcohol is involved and how that is a factor in injury. If you would like to see this demonstration, the first public appearance of SIDNE will be from 4 to 7 p.m. May 30 at the Redcliff Arena.

    Ann Pudwell is a Health Promotions Facilitator with Alberta Health Services, and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]



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