RETURN TO WINTER FUN CAN HEIGHTEN RISK OF TBI
Michigan’s winter months may soon be coming to a halt but the possibility of snow and cold weather are still here and with that wintry mix comes plenty of high-energy outdoor activities. In fact, Michigan ranks No. 2 for having the most ski areas in the U.S. with 42, following behind New York’s lead of 48 areas in operation during the 2015-2016 season. With each fresh snowfall, you can bet families are headed out to those areas while they battle cabin fever by spending time on ski slopes, sled hills, snow tube trails, and toboggan runs. As fun as these activities can be, outdoor enthusiasts should remember that the hard frozen ground can easily cause a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), or even death, in the event someone falls and hits their head.
Below are a short list of precautions the Michigan brain injury lawyers at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C., have prepared to help reduce the risk of TBI’s during our state’s winter months.
TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURIES IN THE U.S.
TBI occurs when the brain is injured by a sudden force or trauma. The brain can be driven into the side of the skull by a sudden blow, or by the force of shaking or whiplash. When this occurs, the brain can suffer bruising and swelling, and in some cases the impact will be sufficient to tear blood vessels in the brain, causing intracranial bleeding.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, more than 1.7 million people suffer a TBI each year and nearly 50,000 people die as a result of one. Yes, not all of these injuries are caused by outdoor winter activities but these same types of falls are similar to those that inflict someone with a TBI. Head injuries sustained during winter activities like skiing or sledding should be taken seriously. They should also be evaluated by a healthcare professional, even if the person injured is feeling normal or OK. These injuries can cause lasting effects if not identified quickly and treated properly.
Signs of a TBI include any of the following:
- Blurry vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty remembering
- Overall confusion and feeling disoriented
Preventing traumatic brain injuries while partaking in winter sports can be driven by simple common sense and not taking risks when it comes to safety, but there are other factors at play as well.
SAFE SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING
According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), 39 people died and about 45 people are seriously injured each year skiing, sledding, and snowboarding accidents. NSAA says, “Excess speed, loss of control and collisions with objects, like a tree or building, are the most common factors associated with fatalities.” Some of these serious accidents also cause damaging TBIs.
The National Safety Council suggests all skiers and snowboarders take the time to learn skills and review safety techniques prior to participating in winter activities.
- Get in shape for the season, and not just the week before a ski trip; a regular exercise routine will help reduce fatigue and injury.
- Beginners should invest in proper instruction, including learning how to fall and get back up; experienced skiers should take a refresher course.
- Always know the weather conditions before heading to the slopes.
- Clothing should be both comfortable and functional. Make sure outerwear is made of fabric that is not only water repellent but slide-resistant.
- Give skiers in front of you the right of way because they most likely can’t see you.
- If you have to stop, stop on the side of a run, not in the middle.
- Look both ways and uphill before crossing a trail, merging or starting down a hill.
- Use skis with brakes or a snowboard with a leash to prevent runaway equipment.
- Never ski on closed runs or out of boundaries because these areas are not monitored and there is no way to know what the snow conditions are; a rogue skier could even cause an avalanche.
- Always wear a helmet when on the ice or the slopes.
- Don’t try dangerous jumps, be it on ice or snow, if you aren’t sure of your ability.
- Watch for others in your pathway.
- Never participate in winter sports under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
SLEDDING AND SNOW TUBE DANGERS
While some communities evaluate implementing sledding bans due to liability, most families are still grabbing sleds and saucers and sliding down snow packed and icy hills at upwards of 25 dangerous miles per hour. And a startling consequence, according to the Center on Injury Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, more than 20,000 kids younger than 19 are treated for sledding injuries on average each year.
Similar to skiing and snowboarding, sledding and snow tube injuries often occur when the sled or tube hits a stationary object or the rider falls off. All riders should wear a helmet since most sledding injuries result in skull fractures. In addition to the skiing and snowboarding safety tips, follow these basic sledding and tubing rules from the National Safety Council.
- Make sure all equipment is in good condition, free of sharp edges and cracks.
- Sled/Tube on spacious, gently sloping hills with a level run-off at the end so you can safely stop.
- Check slopes for bare spots, holes, and obstructions, such as fences, rocks, poles or trees.
- Do not ride on or around frozen lakes, streams or ponds.
- Riders should sit or lay on their back on top of the sled with feet pointing downhill; never sled head first.
- Dress warmly, and wear thick gloves or mittens and heavy boots to protect against frostbite and injury.
HELMETS AND PROPER GEAR CAN PREVENT WINTER ACTIVITY INJURIES
Helmets can reduce head injuries by 30 and 50 percent depending on the outdoor activity. According to the NSAA, 80 percent of those participating in outdoor winter sports like skiing or snowboarding wore helmets regularly during the 2015-2016 season. That is again an increase of 10 percent over the previous year.
There is no concussion-proof helmet so winter activity participants should make it a priority to avoid hits and blows to the head. Even though helmet use has increased, there has not been a corresponding decrease in fatalities over the past decade and TBIs still can occur with helmet use.
In addition, anyone participating in winter activities such as skiing, sledding, or snowboarding should select quality equipment. Improperly fitted boots, headgear, snow pants, jackets, snowboards, sleds, and ski gear can lead to injury.
If you or someone you know suffers an injury to the head or neck, do not move them and call for professional help. If you have symptoms of a concussion, like a headache, blurred vision or difficulty sleeping, contact a doctor, and don’t return to activity until you’ve been cleared.
For over 40 years, The Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C. has helped Michigan traumatic brain injury victims win their case and collect the compensation they deserve. Please call Lee Free and Michigan traumatic brain injury lawyers at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) or fill out the Free Case Evaluation Form so we can answer any questions you may have about traumatic brain injury.