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CONCUSSIONS — BE HEAD SMART

October 18, 2006
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A smart rider is also a safe rider and part of being safe is wearing proper protective gear. Of all the protective gear that you as a rider wear, a helmet is always what comes to mind first. It is crucial that you keep your head as well protected as possible. But keep in mind, sometimes, no matter how much we research or spend or stand behind our product, injury still occurs.

One common head injury in motocross is a concussion. This week we will talk about the brain, what a concussion is and their occurrence, some symptoms and signs of a concussion, and how you will be treated at the doctor.

The Brain

The human brain is part of the Central Nervous System. It is responsible for our bodies breathing, digestion, heart rate, blood pressure, and balance and muscle coordination. It is what helps us be able to plan, organize, problem solve and process visual and written images. The brain also determines our personalities and is responsible for both long term and short term memory.

The brain, which weighs about 3 pounds, is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and is nestled in the skull. CSF is meant, in part, to protect the brain from being traumatized by activities such as walking, running or from light traumas. This cushioning is very thin though and may not protect the brain from more severe impacts.

When a concussion occurs, it is fairly widespread in the brain and does not generally focus on one general area. The injury will cause the brain to sort of slow down. This may last as few as 7-10 days, but can have some following symptoms lasting months after the injury.

What is a concussion and who gets them?

A concussion occurs in one of 3 ways: accelerated or decelerated forces or by a direct, hard blow. In motocross, most injuries will occur from a hit to the head. The brain will be rattled or shaken in the skull, causing an injury, which in turn, interrupts the brain’s normal activities.

There are 5 grades of concussions depending on the severity of the injury:

  • Grade 1 basic confusion

  • Grade 2 anterograde amnesia that lasts less than 5 min, along with confusion

  • Grade 3 retrograde amnesia and unconsciousness for less than 5 min., along with the above

  • Grade 4 the above symptoms and including unconsciousness that lasts 5-10 minutes

  • Grade 5 same as Grade 4 but also including the loss of consciousness for more than ten minutes

Concussions are the most common and also the least severe form of brain injury. They occur most often in motor vehicle accidents (45%), with falls (30%), work related accidents (10%) and recreational accidents (10%) coming up as the other leading causes. Of these causes, motor vehicle accidents occur most often in young adults, falls occur most often in older adults and men have twice as many head injuries as women.

What to watch for

If you are involved in an accident and you have had a direct hit to your head, there are some things you can check for to see if you require medical attention for a possible concussion. Please keep in mind, if you are in a crash, it is always wise to follow up with your doctor, even if you are initially feeling fine. Damage is not always evident to the rider at the time of injury.

Some signs or symptoms of a concussion are:

  • A brief loss of consciousness

  • Amnesia right before and after the accident

  • General confusion

  • Trouble walking

  • Lightheaded or dizziness

  • Vomiting

  • Vision trouble blurred, double, trouble focusing

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Lethargic behavior

When riding

Virtually every racer has, at some point, “rung their bell” and received a concussion. Often times, this is due to a hard crash where you are thrown over/off the bike, typically resulting in a head first collision with the ground. A concussion can be easily diagnosed by the symptoms recognized above. Even for the rider, things will move slower, your reactions are less responsive, and general confusion become pretty apparent. DO NOT CONTINUE RIDING! Take some time to sit down, cool off, and rehydrate.

Concussions can become even more dangerous, even deadly, if you receive a second one in close succession to the first. This is known as Second Impact Syndrome, and can cause severe swelling of the brain, which in turn can lead to permanent cognitive and physical defects. The moral of the story wait at least 2 weeks to ride after receiving a concussion.

One final note: helmets are designed to absorb impact. After receiving a blow hard enough to damage your brain, you can also bet that it damaged your helmet. Replace the helmet with a new one, as a severe impact can render the helmet useless after a crash.

Diagnosis and treatment

When you visit the doctor, he will examine you for a variety of things. Some things that will be checked are your eyes and vision, muscle reflexes and movements and other basic body functions. It may also be required for you to have a Head CT or an MRI of your head, to check for any bleeding or any more serious damage.

In general, a concussion is easily treatable. Rest is the best medicine for a full recovery, along with any other things your doctor recommends. If you should lose consciousness, it is best to wait 3 months before any athletic activities are resumed. This is the best plan to help reduce the likeliness of brain injury. A full recovery is expected with a basic, uncomplicated concussion. If you have any symptoms that linger longer than originally discussed with your doctor, be sure to make a follow up appointment.

As always?

Protection is the best way to go to avoid serious injury. Always wear your helmet when you practice, ride, or race. Remember, make sure your helmet is SNELL or DOT approved. Play safe, ride hard!

EVS Winning with Safety”

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