10 Reasons to wear a Safety Hat
You’ve seen those commercials talking about replacing your mattress after every eight years—after all, that’s a lot of dead skin cells, dirt, dust mites, etc., that gathers every night. And when it comes to your favorite pair of riding pants, you don’t think twice about replacing them when they’re starting to be worn thin, or maybe showing a little too much wear and tear. But do you even think about how old your helmet is?
Go ahead, take a moment from reading this to find your helmet and look at the tags inside. We’ll wait…
Did you see the date? Or is it so faded you can’t tell if that’s a three or an eight? Can you even remember when you purchased it? It might just be time to buy a new helmet.
As we prepare to celebrate the eighth annual Riders4Helmets International Helmet Awareness Day, we want to applaud everyone who don’t think twice about putting on a helmet before swinging their leg over a horse. They are the ones that know that wearing a helmet can help reduce the chance of a lethal head injury.
But if you’ve worn helmets most of your life, you might be the type to just pick up the same velveteen-covered helmet that has gotten through your junior rider years and onto your adult classes because…well, it’s “broken in” and more comfortable. But wearing a helmet that’s passed its limit of effectiveness might not fully protect you in the way an updated helmet can.
Did you know that helmet manufacturers generally recommend that you replace your helmet every four to five years (this cam be sooner depending on level of use)? Think about all the time you spend in the saddle—the liters of sweat, the coats of dust, and drenching from the rains all take a toll on your helmet and causes the Styrofoam inside to break down, reducing its effectiveness at protection.
If you’ve had an accident while wearing your helmet, no matter how minor it was (i.e., your head just barely hit the ground), that can reduce the effectiveness of the helmet’s protection. Damage to the helmet might not be visible to the naked eye, so you can’t assume there is no issue after a fall. Of course, any catastrophic incident can render a helmet useless and cause for an immediate replacement.
And when you do go to purchase a new helmet, take precautions when it comes to proper fit and ensuring the date of manufacture. When trying on helmets, be sure to wear your hair the way you would any time you ride—if you prefer a bun, wear a bun, if you prefer a ponytail, wear your hair in a ponytail—then go shop.
Also, check the manufacture date on the inside of the helmet, no matter if you’re purchasing new or used. Take caution when considering purchasing a used helmet, since the helmet may have sustained damage from a previous incident that you can’t see.
Don’t think that only children or novice riders should be the ones to wear an approved helmet—there has been no statistical correlation between skill level and the likelihood of an injury when it comes to equestrian sport. You can even have a catastrophic injury from falling off a horse that’s standing still.
If you like to think with your head, take a moment to consider your head first and wearing proper protection.
To find out more about International Helmet Awareness Day, visit riders4helmets and learn how leading helmet manufacturers are offering special discounts to help keep you safe in the saddle this year.
Concussion & Head Injury
Overview of Concussion
Common features include:
- Acute symptoms that represent functional disturbances, rather than structural changes to the brain.
- Symptoms that are rapid in onset, but usually resolve spontaneously.
- A range of clinical symptoms and signs (see below). That may or may not include loss of consciousness or
- amnesia (loss of memory).
- Neuro imaging studies (brain scans) that are usually normal.
(Adapted from ACSM Physicians Consensus, 2005)
What is happening in the concussed brain?
Unlike more severe traumatic brain injuries, the disturbance of brain function in MTBI is related more to disturbances of brain metabolism rather than to obvious structural damage. A complex cascade of ionic, metabolic and physiologic events appears to be triggered by the impact.
This appears to be initiated by the release of a neurotransmitter glutamate resulting in indiscriminate flow of potassium ions out of nerve cells and sodium and calcium in. This affects energy production on the cells’ powerhouses, the mitochondria, resulting in little energy (glucose) to fuel normal information processing. Hence clinical signs and symptoms of MTB such as poor attention, memory, speed of processing, and motor function are manifestations of this underlying neurometabolic cascade.
Rest both from exercise and mental exertion (studying, computers etc.) is required for this imbalance to redress itself. (For a scientific explanation see Giza’s paper under Research/Pathophysiology.)
Previous definitions of concussion relied on the presence of one or both of two specific symptoms to be present for the definition of concussion to be made namely, loss of consciousness or amnesia.
Loss of consciousness for any period of time and amnesia remain significant events. The amnesia may be retrograde (forgetting events that occurred before the impact) or anterograde (memory loss for events occurring after the impact).
However, it is now acknowledged that concussion presents in a number of guises, and any combination of a number of symptoms and signs should be looked for.
These symptoms may persist from hours to weeks. A player that is suspected to be suffering from ANY of these symptoms or signs must be examined by a doctor.
Moreover, some of these symptoms may present immediately after the injury, while others may develop over hours to days following injury.
Significance of Concussion
By definition, the symptoms of concussion seem to resolve spontaneously over the course of time and there appears to be limited structural damage to the brain. Why then should traumatic brain injury which is ‘mild ‘ be taken seriously?
Firstly, should the condition not be correctly diagnosed and appropriately managed (see Diagnosis & Management) symptoms are likely to persist for longer and hamper the recovery. As many of the symptoms listed represent changes to brain function, the developing brain of a young athlete may be significantly compromised not only in a sporting, but importantly also in a learning and social environment. A Post Concussion Syndrome comprising persistent headaches, sensitive eyes, poor concentration, fatigue and drowsiness, and disturbed sleep patterns may wreak havoc with the learner’s performance in the classroom. Other symptoms such as mood changes and depression impact on the athlete’s interaction with family and peers. Poor coordination, delayed reaction times, exercise-induced headaches and dizziness, and compromised vision will affect performance on the sports field, thereby greatly increasing the risk of recurrent head or other injury.
Secondly, although far less common, the risk of Second Impact Syndrome, a very serious and even fatal brain injury that may occur even with a relatively mild impact, appears to be particularly significant in young athletes. A rare disorder, Second Impact Syndrome, occurs when an athlete suffers a concussion and then, within a short time later (usually within one week although it may be longer), receives a second blow to the head before the brain has recovered from the first concussion. It is possible for rapid brain deterioration and even death to occur. This happens because the brain is still affected from the first injury and the second injury results in rapid swelling and pressure within the skull. This intracranial pressure, if uncontrolled, can lead to death. There have been several episodes of suspected second impact syndrome in South Africa recently.
In the last decade, a larger body of research has focussed on the potential long term consequences of recurrent and undiagnosed concussion. A condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been described. The exact progress of the condition from concussion to potential CTE is unknown and not all cases of concussion will result in chronic deficits. CTE has most recently been the subject of the movie “Concussion” starring Will Smith.
Summary & Conclusion
In summary, concussion needs to be taken very seriously and can be summarised as follows:
1. Severe Neurological Injury
Acutely, if not identified and managed appropriately, concussion may result in diffuse cerebral oedema (also referred to as Second Impact Syndrome) with resultant severe neurological compromise and even death.
2. Distinguishing Concussion from Other Forms of Brain Injury
The symptoms and signs of concussion may mimic other more serious forms of head injury including intra-cranial bleeds.
3. Post Concussion Syndrome
Failure to recognise and appro-priately manage concussion may result in symptoms persisting for weeks, months or years.
4. Cognitive deficits
Concussion often affects young people in a learning environment; failure to recognise and manage the condition may significantly impaired learning.
5. Impaired Performance and Increased Injury Risk
Previous concussions, especially those not managed appropri-ately, predispose to further con-cussions and also increase the risk of other injuries.
6. Chronic Neurological and Psychological Sequelae
An increased incidence of depression has been identified in athletes who have suffered recurrent concussion. Recurrent head trauma has also been associated with persistent cognitive deficits, especially in American Football players.