Mind your Head
As a goaltender on a varsity hockey team I am unfortunately all too familiar with concussions. Take a weird turn and go head first into the boards. Fall in centre ice and the head nails the ice. Stand in the net ready for a shot and the puck flies rapidly at your face. All of these scenarios can lead to a concussion. While the damage isn’t always visible, concussions can lead to lifelong complications and must be dealt with right away.
I suffered two concussions in less than a year, the effects of which were extremely serious. Both were mostly my fault as my helmet had expired in 2006 and I decided to play with my odds rather than spending the money to buy a new helmet. As fate would have it, I took three slap shots to the face in two days, the last from the blue line, which secured my injury. The moment the puck hit me in the mask I went down – the white ice began to flicker with black spots and I couldn’t focus my vision. It felt as though I was on a merry-go-round, the world spinning around me even though I was sitting still. I had to go see the doctor immediately, who told me that I counted as a 40 on her concussion scale (the lower the number, the less severe the concussion.) I was out of hockey for five months and I missed school for two full weeks. In university, missing just a day of school can be detrimental; missing two weeks in third year was like asking to be put on academic probation. Luckily my school, Carleton University, had many programs that helped students who were unable to attend classes as a result of injury.
During the weeks I was recovering I had to have my notes taken for me in class. When I began to feel a bit better I handwrote my notes instead of using the computer since the screen would give me severe migraines. I was given more time to write my exams than other students and wrote them in a special office, with the option to take supervised breaks if needed. Despite all of this support, getting a concussion was still the worst thing I have ever experienced. Having to lay in bed all day in the dark; not being able to listen to music, watch movies or do any sort of physical activity; and not being able to do my homework were just some of the things I had to deal with while I was injured.
I hope my personal experience helps to put things in perspective and shed light on the importance of concussion prevention. While wearing a helmet doesn’t guarantee you will never have a concussion, you should always wear a helmet to give yourself as much protection as possible. Here are a few other things to keep in mind.
- Biking helmets, if it hasn’t gone through any serious crashes, are safe for up to 10 years.
- Hockey helmets are usually safe for up to 6 ½ years, although hockey helmets are made to only take a few major hits. If you have taken more than four big hits or four slap shots to the face, seriously contemplate getting a new helmet.
If you or someone you know suffers from a concussion here’s what to do:
- Go see a doctor.
- Rest and sleep.
- Avoid all monitors and screens since they can trigger headaches.
- Avoid all physical activity until you go a week without a concussion symptom.
- NOTE: Children are more sensitive to the effects of a concussion and may need to have a longer period of rest prior to returning to activity and sports.
Here are some common concussion symptoms:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Lack of coordination – dizziness, difficulty staying balanced or walking in a straight line
- Pupil dilation
- Blurred vision and light sensitivity
- Bumps or bruises on the area of the head where the impact took place
- Emotional outbursts: extreme mood swings, unexplained irritation, depression and anxiety
- Slurred speech
- Disrupted sleeping patterns
An initiative of BC Children’s Hospital, Child Health BC is helping to make concussion awareness and management easier for parents and health-care providers. In partnership with the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit and with support from the Ministry of Health, Child Health BC has created a concussion awareness training toolkit (CATT) for British Columbians. This new web-based toolkit aims to standardize the recognition, diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions in children.
For more information about CATT, visit www.cattonline.com, and learn mor about concussion awareness through our blog entry, Concusion awareness across Canada.