DHHS Provides Safety Tips For Those Participating In Extreme Winter Sports

LINCOLN – As the winter Olympics approach, the first month of the year is being recognized as the National Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Awareness Month.

According to a release from the Department of Health and Human Services, harsh winter days offer thrill-seekers a playground of opportunity to participate in extreme sports such as snowboarding, skiing and snowmobiling. The high velocity along with the living-on-the-edge sense of adventure makes these sports appealing to many.

DHHS officials state there are physical risks associated with such activities, such as concussions and TBI’s. These sports and recreational activities contribute to about 21% of all Traumatic Brain Injuries among American children and adolescents.

A study published in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine examined the rates of head and neck injuries in three extreme winter sports (snowboarding, snow skiing, snowmobiling) and four extreme summer sports (surfing, skateboarding, mountain biking, and motocross). The study discovered some alarming statistics:

  • More than 4 million injuries were reported in the seven sports between 2000 and 2011, 11% of which involved injuries to the head and neck.
  • Skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing, and motocross had the highest number of head and neck injuries.
  • Snowboarding and skiing combined accounted for 55% of the reported concussions from all seven sports.
  • According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, snowboarding is the leading cause of winter sports injuries.

To help make extreme winter sports adventure safer, the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons suggest:

  • Always wear a helmet for high-velocity sports
  • Prepare for extreme physical activity by stretching and warming up
  • Hydrate and eat a well-balanced diet
  • Wear appropriate protective gear and outerwear to limit skin exposure
  • Know when to stop; injuries happen from exhaustion
  • Avoid overexposure to sub-freezing temperatures
  • Be informed about current weather conditions
  • Stay in bounds on the slopes and watch for obstacles and hazardous conditions
  • Never participate in winter sports activities alone
  • Extreme sports activities should be enjoyed where medical care is near
  • Seek medical attention if injured

Adolescents watch extreme sporting events on television and often think flying through the air on a snowboard looks easy. But they do not realize all the practice that they put into the sport, nor do they see how often extreme athletes get injured while practicing and learning their stunts.

If injured while participating in any extreme sport, seek diagnosis and treatment from a sports medicine physician, preferably one who is specialty-trained for musculoskeletal injuries. If a mild concussion is suspected, a diagnosis may require a neurological examination to test vision, hearing, strength, sensations, balance, coordination, reflexes, memory, as well as a cranial CT scan or MRI. Depending on the symptoms and severity of the injury, the injured party may be referred to a neurologist. Traumatic brain injuries are emergencies and require immediate treatment at the closest emergency room.

Visit dhhs.ne.gov for more information.

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