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Let's talk about heads, ba-by

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

Sorry, apparently I have Salt-n-Pepa on the brain.


The same brain I try to protect when I'm riding by wearing a helmet.


Yep, it's that time again: Time to talk about protecting your head, personality, and way of life.

(Image Credit: https://www.mdpi.com/2223-7747/10/9/1755)


Story time!


Once upon a time, there was an HVAC engineer who had a sister married to a lovely man. This man happened to be a big truck driver. Owned his own trucks and company. One day, while he was working on top of one of his trucks, he lost his footing, slipped and fell to the ground. He hit his head and was out for no one knows how long. He had a pretty severe concussion.


After that, Mr. Truck Driver was never the same. His personality did an almost complete 1-80. His family's life changed forever - including a divorce. The end.


The NHL has a huge history with concussions in its players. Global News did an in-depth article about it.


There's a small note on Canada.ca that gives a few statistics on concussion in sport. Some of them are disturbing. Like 1 in 2 Canadians have next to know idea what concussion is and 1 in 4 would have no idea how to treat it. In fact, only 15% knows the best way to treat concussion at all. Finally, only 40% of people are even aware of the available concussion tools or resources.


Government of Canada Supporting Tools and Information Sharing
The Government of Canada has developed evidence-based information and practical tools for athletes, coaches, teachers, parents, school and sports administrators and health professionals:

(links added after I posted it here)


Concussion is a brain game changer but what is it?


Concussion is caused when your brain is sloshed around in your head and smacks your skull at least once. Aka, a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). It can happen if someone whacks you in the head, or body, hard enough to slosh said brain. Car accidents, shoulder checks (hockey move, not looking over your shoulder), hockey gloves coming off and fists meeting heads, falling off your skates or bike or scooter, all of these things will cause a concussion.


What are the symptoms?


The most common physical ones are:


  1. Headache (is a given)

  2. Ringing in the ears

  3. Nausea

  4. Vomiting

  5. Fatigue

  6. Blurry vision (I went temporarily blind after a particularly hard whack on the head)


Other not-so-obvious-to-others symptoms include:


  1. Confusion or feeling as if you're standing in fog

  2. Amnesia about the reason you can't remember anything but your head is killing you

  3. Dizziness or 'seeing stars' (not Tweetys like the Puddy Tat)


Sometimes these symptoms can be seen by the person with you:


  1. Temporary loss of consciousness (this doesn't always happen but if it does, you have a doozy of a recovery coming)

  2. Slurred speech

  3. Delayed response to questions

  4. Dazed appearance

  5. Forgetfulness, such as asking the same question over and over

Given that young children can't communicate how they're feeling, if you have a young child, (in whom, as a general thing, head trauma is common), you should know what to look for if they bang their heads (like my son did at 18 months when he snuck over the barrier at the bottom of the stairs, got almost all the way to the top then fell, bouncing on his head, while I was on the loo, of course).


The Mayo Clinic posted these signs on their website:


  1. Dazed appearance

  2. Listlessness and tiring easily

  3. Irritability and crankiness

  4. Loss of balance and unsteady walking

  5. Excessive crying

  6. Change in eating or sleeping patterns

  7. Lack of interest in favorite toys

  8. Vomiting

  9. Seizures


They also suggest a visit to the doc within 48 hours. If, however, they're vomiting, seizing, or passing out, take them immediately.


Vomiting, loss of consciousness, a worsening headache, bleeding from the natural-supposed-to-be-there holes in your head, eye disturbances (change in pupils), weakness in the limbs, ringing in the ears that won't stop, dizziness, seizures and convulsions are all reasons to seek immediate medical attention.


How do we prevent them?


Stop doing anything!


No, really, concussion can happen at any time.


Walking down the street and trip over a line on the sidewalk? (What? You haven't?) Fall, bump your head. Say hello to concussion.


Toddler learning how to, well, toddle and they bang their head on the coffee table? Concussion.


Riding your bike and you've crashed going 20km/h. If you hit your head, concussion.


Someone zooms backwards out of their spot in a parking lot, slams into your rear passenger quarter panel, and knocks you hard to the side? If your head went sideways, concussion, even if it didn't hit the door. (Nah, I never use personal experience in these things.)


Your little brother, who's bigger than you, throw you to the ground in a WWF classic move and knock you out cold when your head bounces off ice? Concussion. Blindness, too, apparently (though that did take a couple of hours to happen and didn't last more than a few hours).


So, you get the idea, concussions happen. Any where, any time.


Knowledge matters and I have to say, the protocols for treating concussion are hard to do, especially for screen-addicted children. Basic protocols are: no screens - phone, tablet or TV; no bright lights; and lots of rest. If they're puking, that's when you have to wake them every couple of hours. If not, then you can let them sleep.


Between my daughter, my son, and I, we have probably 30 concussions under our belts. Which is a lot. Concussions can leave lasting damage. Those concussion symptoms that last a long time are called 'post-concussive symptoms' and they can not only last for months but include a number of things.


  1. headaches (which feel more like tension headaches than migraines, usually)

  2. dizziness

  3. fatigue

  4. irritability

  5. anxiety

  6. trouble falling asleep/sleeping too much

  7. Loss of concentration and memory.

  8. Ringing in the ears.

  9. Blurry vision.

  10. Noise and light sensitivity.

  11. Rarely, decreases in taste and smell. (huh... is that why my sense of smell is wonky?)


And the Mayo Clinic finishes their lists by saying. "If a concussion occurs while playing a sport, don't go back into the game." Right. Instead, go get medical help.


Frankly, there's not enough information about concussion to definitively say how to avoid them, as in, they don't really know what the mechanism is to cause them. We know why concussions happen - brain is jostled - but they don't know how or why, really. They can tell you who is at risk, especially for post-concussive symptoms.


One concussion makes it super easy for another to happen because it takes far less force for it to happen. And it can vary from person to person. One kid hit in the head with a flying soccer ball can be fine but the kid beside them could have a concussion. That's why people with a concussion can probably tell you at least one other time they've had their brains scrambled.


Long-term, multiple concussion effects include many things. For instance, I've worn glasses since my brother dropped me on my head. To be far, I was bashing his shins with a heavy school bag; he got mad. Tsk. Sibling arguments tend to be almost as violent as the WWF (that's my experience anyway lol).



Wait, wait... No, we first have to talk about the mechanics of a concussion.


When your head is shaken about, your immune system goes, "Whoa! Wtf! Protection! Let's get that swelling going! Now! Now! Now!"


(Yep, your immune system has a soldier like the Commando Elite leader from Small Soldiers. Or maybe the soldiers in Toy Story.)


During the time that's going on, the affected neurons aren't getting enough oxygen to make your brain do its normal tasks. That means that when you try to do someone those cells are supposed to be in charge of - like reading or balancing -they won't be able to do it.


The good news is that when your brain heals, everything comes back.


However, the more times you have an mTBI, the more likely you are to suffer from chronic headaches, or a personality change, or forgetfulness.



Suboptimal signaling pathways in your brain are similar to the different routes you can take on your commute home. Some roads just have more traffic than others. If you have to drive around an accident, you’ll take longer to get home. And if you get stuck in a traffic jam, who knows how long the trip back will take (assuming you don’t just give up and eat dinner at a restaurant while you wait). In those situations, you end up tired and frustrated. What should be an easy trip home, isn’t.
During healthy brain function, communication “traffic” — i.e., the signaling needed for a task like reading — would be equally distributed along existing pathways. Information needing to take a suboptimal pathway is like taking the frontage road instead of the highway. The impacted cells can’t call for enough blood flow (and thus oxygen) to do their jobs, so other cells have to do the job for them.
The more your brain has to use suboptimal pathways, the more tired it becomes. It’s more likely for you to have symptoms. And with multiple concussions, there are simply more opportunities for that to happen. (Note that severity depends on the individual patient. You could have persistent, severe symptoms from just one concussion.)
The good news is that those pathways can be mended — just not without a combination of physical and cognitive therapy under the direction of a trained medical professional.

In other words: Multiple concussions can have effects on your autonomic nervous system - that's the system that controls nearly everything your body does automatically. Concussion can disrupt those cells that regulate your 'flight or flight' and 'rest and digest' processes (they're controlled by the autonomic system, basically). Along with the vision system.


Cognitive FX was kind enough to create a chart of post-concussive symptoms. I've snatched it off their page (the one I linked before the quote) so I can share it with you.





So, now that you understand how dangerous it is, let's see how to prevent, or at least mitigate, concussions. Since none of us are going to quit living our lives, or stop riding, we'll ignore that full-stop bit of an idea.


With Cycling, hockey, skateboarding, skiing, etc, a helmet is the best thing to wear. There are all kinds, from the $30 plastic shell with EPS foam inside to the $145 Smith Forefront 2 with MIPS and Koroyd tubes or the $260 Smith Endura MT500 with Koroyd's welded tubes. [This blog is not sponsored, btw, I am using examples]


Those Kroyod tubes are interesting but are they for real? Well, they've been chosen to make flight helmets for American Armed Forces. They're being used by motorcycle helmet builders. It's an energy absorbing system that can take more than the EPS foam. When it is crushed, the tubes compress outwards, rather than down (like the EPS). It means that it can take up to 78% compression that still absorbs and spreads the energy (EPS only takes 60%). They call it "sacrificial plastic deformation" and say that the material is a 'true energy absorber (rather than a spring), controlling and dissipating a larger amount of energy before it's transferred to the head'.


There are a lot of places to find helmets. The key is making sure it fits properly. Level, snug and stable. When you've strapped it on and you open your mouth wide, only then it should feel like it's choking you (or about to). Because heads come in all shapes and sizes, it's important to try them on. If you're ordering online, make sure you take the measurements required.


We can help you with that. Even though the law states that only people under 18 have to wear a helmet, you really should. As you can see, a concussion from an accident can change your life. It only takes one.


Stay safe!


“If you do something right the first time, then it’s not hard enough.” — Danny MacAskill, Scottish trials legend












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Mar 02, 2023
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Protect your Melon!

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