Skiing And Concussions


It’s a sport/activity that has great risk involved with it.  At the professional level skiers will “fly” down the hill at perilous speeds on what appears to be snow.  However most courses are basically a sheet of ice allowing for higher speeds, but the unforgiving surface can wreak havoc on anyone that falls.  This is also true of the recreational ski resorts, not so much the ice, but the hard surface that skiers ski on.

Helmets are mandated at the highest level and extremely encouraged for all skiers, but as we know helmets cannot prevent concussions, they are on the heads of the individual to prevent skull fractures.  However it is of this author’s opinion that many people strike their head on the snow often to produce concussions.  One of my many concussions that has led me to this point occurred on the slopes of Copper Mountain in Colorado.  I believe I was 12 at the time (hardly remember the incident, in fact my mother had to remind me of it after the article in the New Yorker came out), what I do remember is getting my skis crossed on a “double black” run and trying to save it, next thing I remember was being in a sled, freezing and unaware of what happened, exactly.  Mom, dad and brother were all witness to my efforts to save the mistake, but I fell forward down the hill and hit my head, then (thankfully) my skis ended up downhill as I went over a drop off, my brother claims it was a cliff, and came to rest unconscious.

Yesterday ESPN.com ran an AP story about Lindsey Vonn, perhaps the most well-known skier to the casual fan in the United States.  Recently during a training run she fell, not new to her or peers, and hit her head “pretty hard” on Wednesday.  She remained off the slopes yesterday;

Three-time World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn sustained a concussion when she crashed during practice and was still unsure Thursday whether she will compete in the final two races before the world championships.Vonn told The Associated Press she will have a medical check Friday morning before deciding whether to race in a World Cup slalom hours later. A giant slalom was scheduled for Saturday.

“The doctor has to clear me for tomorrow. It depends if I have any symptoms, they are worried about the second impact. Concussions can be pretty dangerous,” Vonn said.

As the defending World Cup Champion, getting back on the course is very important to her, add to that she is currently chasing Maria Riesch (down by 145 points) for this years Championship.  Competitiveness of the world’s best athletes at times can be a hindrance to the overall safety of an individual, we have seen this ad nausea at the NFL level and even in tragic cases with adolescents at the high school level.  Plenty of rest can resolve symptoms of concussion allowing anyone to return to normal/high-level activities, however returning before the brain has fully recovered and create major and lasting issues.

And not just to the brain, in this particular case of World Cup skiing symptoms can cloud judgment that could mean the difference between making the turn to the finish or the slight miscalculation creating a compromising crash.  If you have seen some of the spectacular crashes in skiing you will note that the entire body is in peril going down the slopes.  Perhaps the governing body of World Cup skiing should take a look at a concussion policy.

Thanks to @ewheeler1976 for that article.

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