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Brain Injury Risk from Winter Sports

While it has so far been a particularly mild winter here in Chicago, if history is any guide we can still expect to have our fair share of cold, snowy days in the coming weeks and months. To beat the winter blues, many local residents try to add a little fun into the season by taking advantage of snow sports like skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and similar activities. These winter escapades have actually grown in popularity in recent years as increased promotion of “extreme” sports has made national celebrities out of some of the athletes involved, like snowboarding champion Shuan White.

Our Chicago brain injury attorneys hope that all local, amateur winter sport participants stay cognizant of the risk that are associated with these sports. Like many other sports-football, hockey, soccer-winter activities often present the risk of falls onto hard snow or ice at high speeds. These falls can lead to significant head trauma, often resulting in concussions or even more serious harm. That is why it is important for local residents to take precautions to limit these falls, and, where appropriate, recognize the signs of traumatic brain injury so that proper treatment can be sought.

An article in this weekend’s Standard-Examiner touched on the same issues. The story noted that many department of health officials have issued warnings to local residents. Those warning have explained that hundreds of winter revelers have already suffered traumatic brain injuries in a range of sports from skiing and sledding to ice skating. Many officials are asking residents to be sure to wear proper equipment when they engage in activities that might present the risk of serious harm. Helmets are crucial. Experts studying the statistics concerning these winter accidents have found that two-thirds of all victims of winter sports-related brain injuries were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.

Some high-profile tragedies have also been reported this winter season. For example, winter sports star Sarah Burke died this month while training for this year’s Winter X Games. The 29-year old half pipe skiing champion had been known as a pioneer in the sport, and was widely regarded as the best in the world. However, while practicing earlier this month she fell, hit awkwardly, and had her vertebral artery rupture. The injury triggered cardiac arrest which caused irreversible brain damage and ultimately led to her death from oxygen deprivation. It was a terrible loss and another reminder of the danger of many of these activities.

Of course there are many other high-profile examples of winter activities tragedies. Tony-Award winning actress Natasha Richardson died a few years ago at age 45 after a skiing accident. She apparently suffered what looked to be only a minor fall at a ski resort. However, after waiving off help, Richardson’s condition deteriorated. Her condition worsened over the few hours after the crash. Eventually she was diagnosed with severe bleeding on the brain that ultimately took her life. Many argue that had Richardson received immediate attention for her injury she might have been able to survive the incident.

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