Arizonans who love winter sports should know these brain injury warning signs

Feb 12, 2024, 4:15 AM | Updated: 9:13 am

Watch out for brain injuries in winter sports...

Winter sports pose dangers, which is why Arizonans traveling to snowy areas should practice proper precautions, one Valley doctor said. (Photo by Manuel Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

(Photo by Manuel Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Winter sports come with unique risks of developing traumatic brain injuries, according to one Valley doctor.

“People participate in areas that are dangerous or have obstacles in the way,” according to Dr. Glynnis Zieman, the medical director of the Barrow Neurological Institute’s Brain Injury & Sports Neurology Center.

Skiers or snowboarders may also perform at a level beyond their capabilities, Zieman told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“They can be prone to accidents, which can cause all sorts of injuries, including concessions,” she said.

Why do winter sports put you at risk of developing brain injuries?

Up to 47% of skiing or snowboarding injuries involve traumatic brain injuries, according to a study published in Clinical Biomechanics in 2020. Concussions are also one of the most common skiing injuries.

When people fall or crash into trees or rocks while skiing, they can develop various orthopedic injuries, Zieman said. Bumps, jolts and blows to the head can also cause concussions. Even a crash to the body that shakes up the head and brain can be dangerous, she added.

Zieman said there are various reasons why winter sports can increase a person’s risk of developing brain injuries like concussions.

“Team sports usually have a lot of teammates and coaches and medical providers there to help identify and sometimes even diagnose concussions,” Zieman said.

Professional hockey players may have medical experts on the wings, but people who snowboard or ski for fun may not be properly prepared for the dangers they face when going through the snow at high speeds, she added.

Additionally, people who partake in winter sports may not have people around them who know how to recognize the signs of a concussion, she said.

“Many people kind of get up, try to shake it off and keep participating,” she said. “We hear all the time where they still ski the rest of the day and then they realize later on that there’s a problem and they have symptoms of a concussion.”

How to tell when someone has a concussion

Trauma causes concussions, so check on loved ones who fall, she said. People with brain injuries may be confused and disoriented, she said. They may also repeat themselves or lose consciousness.

“They can develop symptoms, so headaches, sensitivity to light, dizziness, nausea, that kind of thing,” Zieman said.

She said there are various ways concussions can impact a victim’s life, like:

– Headaches, dizziness and vision issues.
– Mood changes, such as being more easily irritated.
– Depression or anxiety.
– Cognitive issues like issues with attention and memory.

She advises sports lovers to always wear well-fitted helmets and high-quality equipment — especially when it comes to footwear.

They should also be careful when looking for places to ski or snowboard, she said. Pick an area without a lot of trees, rocks or other barriers. Avoid areas crowded with other people so you don’t crash into them, she added.

It’s also important to go with another person so they can watch you for signs of injury, she said. Also, always put well-fitted helmets on children and supervise them, she added.

“Snowboarding, skiing, sledding and the like are really thought of as fun recreational activities — and they are,” Zieman said. She wants Arizona sports lovers to be careful so they leave with fun memories instead of brain injuries.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Kate Ourada contributed to this story.

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Arizonans who love winter sports should know these brain injury warning signs