Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Head Trauma Policy
According to national statistics, 1.7 million people a year suffer from a form of traumatic brain injury, or TBI. 30% of TBI sufferers die from their injuries. Read that again, 30% of them die. In the United States, the annual incidence of sports-related concussion is estimated at 300,000. Estimates regarding the likelihood of an athlete in a contact sport experiencing a concussion may be as high as 19% per season.......PER SEASON! TBIs can be mild, or severe; mild TBIs include concussions, which has been a growing in popularity in our sport of late, especially because of the changes in the game. Have you noticed that more collisions are happening on the track? You can blame all of that clockwise skating going on; whenever two people collide face to face, there is a good chance that someone is going over backwards. It's not just for newbies anymore! Concussions are a real danger now and we as a sport have to be ready when they happen to our teammates.
I have been on my soap box about crappy helmets in derby. Yes, if you have a "sweat saver" helmet with soft lining in it, you are courting a concussion. I don't care if sweat savers are more comfortable, they are doing less than nothing to protect the most important thing on your body, and that is your brain. Derby isn't forever, but brain damage can be; if you aren't using a top grade helmet, you are taking a huge risk with your brain health. I understand that no helmet can completely protect you from brain injury, but hockey helmets, Nutcase brand helmets and helmets with the harder foam liners can help protect your brain better than fluffy liners. I beg of you to get yourself a better helmet, NOW. Stop making excuses. Stop denying it... you need to protect your brain and that should be worth any cost.
So, enough about helmet safety. Let me move on to a second and higher soap box. What does your league have in place if a skater hits his or her head at practice? Do I hear crickets? You should, as a league, have something official in place in case one of your skaters receives a TBI. No longer is it ok for the league to leave it up to the skater to make the decision on whether they should seek medical help. Someone suffering with a head injury cannot be trusted to make the correct medical decisions for themselves; if they have a brain injury, even a mild one, they may have impaired judgement and teammates need to step in. If your league has a procedure for head injuries your members will feel like they are backed up in any decisions needed to be made.
I think that many people have the fear that they don't know what they should do. "What if it is just a bump on the head and I'm making a mountain out of a molehill?" Well, I personally don't think you can screw around with any kind of head injury, but there are some of the warning signs someone is suffering from a TBI. Here are the observable behaviors that coaches and other teammates can be aware of.
1. The skater appears to be dazed or stunned. People with head injuries are stunned. They may not react quickly and appear to be "Out of it."
2. The skater is confused about what is happening on the track. Ha ha. I'm not talking about that jammer brain people get sometimes, but they are genuinely confused to why they are skating or on the track.
3. The player is unsure of game, score, or opponent. If someone seems to be suffering from a head injury, ask them what's happening. If they can't tell you with any clarity, the chances that they have a concussion are pretty high.
4. The skater moves clumsily. Balance is the first thing to go in head injuries. After Percy hit his head, he fell two more times due to the primary injury.
5. The skater answers questions slowly. Sometimes a person's language skills get compromised due to a head injury. Percy was unable to communicate well after he fell; he sent me a text that was completely nonsensical and when he approached other people in person, they thought he was suffering from a stroke. Not all symptoms will be that acute, but it can happen.
6. The skater loses consciousness (even temporarily). This is a gigantic red flag.
7. The player shows behavior or personality change. This one is a little more long term, and the league should contact the skater's family to alert them that head injuries can make people act irrationally or change their personalities.
8. The player forgets events prior to hit (retrograde amnesia). This can be seconds before they received the blow to the head or up to an hour.
9. The skater forgets events after hit (anterograde amnesia). People suffering from a TBI may not remember what happened to them after their injury. Whole conversations can happen, and they won't remember them.
It's so scary to demand that someone go and see a doctor in this day and age. You don't want them to spend the money they may not have, but in the case of a head injury, the injured player needs to have his or her teammates watching her back. It's better to overreact than it is to let someone bleed out in their brain. Percy was alone when he had his fall, and because of that, he didn't get the help he needed as soon as he needed it. In roller derby, we are lucky enough to have teammates who are there; be a good teammate and take care of the people in your league.
And get a fucking decent helmet.