So it’s a late fall and, for our family, snowboarding is becoming a big issue and I wanted to talk again about helmets. I’ve talked in the past about the importance of helmets with the motorcycling–it’s equally as important with snowboarding. My son likes to brag about how fast he can get going on his snowboard and often we’ll see speeds 30, 40 miles an hour and even sometimes a little bit higher. Striking your head at those speeds, especially on some ice, could be absolutely devastating. As much as I hate it, I have to buy him, a new helmet this year and he was a little frustrated with me because he saw a bunch of cool helmets online, great graphics and the right brand and stuff, and he wanted this particular helmet and I wouldn’t buy it for him. The issue is you can’t buy a helmet without testing it. By testing, I mean you have to try it on.
When you put a helmet on, it needs to fit snugly and be comfortable without hotspots. What you should do is you should go to a place that has a number of different helmets available, preferably different brands because everybody seems to have a different definition of the right shape for a head. If you look around at your friends and family, you’ll see we all have different shaped heads so it’s good that there’s some variety out there, but you should go and you should try on helmets. You should obviously get a quality helmet, but it doesn’t have to be the most expensive one in the shop. The key is that helmet has to fit properly. What I recommend, is you put the helmet on, you make sure that it can’t move, that the strap will fit in such a way that it doesn’t put undue pressure on your neck.
Some helmets pulled back more than others, but the helmet should be snug. You shouldn’t be able to move it around too much on your head. But at the same token, and this is where you get some funny looks, plan on being in the shop for a while. Leave the helmet on your head, not just for three minutes, leave the helmet on your head for five, 10, 15 minutes, walk around the shop, go look at other merchandise if you like, and I know you’ll look, feel silly, but leave the helmet on your head because you want to make sure you’re not developing any hotspots–that there’s not a bump on your skull or scalp area where it’s getting pushed on that you don’t notice when you only put it on for a minute or two. You don’t want to be altering the helmet. You don’t want to go snowboarding and after an hour snowboarding, finding that this part of the helmet is really pushing on that part of your head and then be trying to change the helmet. That’s not a safe thing to do. You need to find the helmets that fit, fit you well and are comfortable for long periods of time.
With winter sports, I think an important issue when we talk about concussion, and in our children potentially having injuries, is many times snowboarding, skiing, ice skating, some of these activities may not be part of an organized sport through school. If your son or daughter’s involved in school hockey for instance, all the things I’ve talked about in the past with playing football for school or playing basketball for school are true. There are trainers or physicians and there’s testing. All these things are in place. If your kids are going to go off with you and the family and go skiing or snowboarding or ice skating or whatever winter activity, when the surface by definition is slippery, you need to have the same thought processes. If somebody has a bad fall, maybe it’s time to take the snowboard off and call it quits for the day. Ringing your bell when snowboarding is still a traumatic brain injury and so you shouldn’t get back on the slopes and finish out the day even though you paid a fortune for that lift ticket. Same rules apply. Your brain isn’t protected because it’s cold.
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