Concussion, Head Injury, and Helmets: Real Experiences
Helmets and safety - child safety
Do you and your kids wear helmets during certain activities? Have you ever suffered a concussion or other type of head injury? I have, and so have two of my daughters, along with one of my best friends. I hate to admit it, but all the concussions were caused by horseback riding accidents. My youngest daughter’s head injury, however, wasn’t involved with horseback riding. When she was very young, she fell against the edge of my parents’ brick steps. Head injuries and concussions can be really scary. Sometimes they look worse than they actually are, but sometimes the reverse is true. Sometimes there might be no outward sign of head injury, when in fact, there’s a head concussion. Thankfully, preventing such injuries might be as easy as wearing protective helmets. Helmets can be an important part of safety, especially child safety.
What is a concussion?
Simply stated, a head concussion is trauma or injury to the brain. Most concussions are caused by hard blows to the head. In babies and toddlers, concussions can be caused by being shaken with too much force, as with shaken baby syndrome. Shaken baby syndrome can result in death or in permanent brain damage, but in adults and older children, a concussion isn’t often life threatening. This is especially true in the case of mild concussion.
Concussion symptoms can vary widely in type and in severity, depending on the specific head injury. Typical signs of concussion include headache, confusion, loss of consciousness, nausea, vomiting, temporary amnesia, sleepiness, lethargy, irritability, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and speech difficulties. Concussion symptoms might also include seeing dancing or shooting points of light, usually referred to as “seeing stars.”
Sometimes signs of concussion aren’t experienced until long after the head injury occurs. Also, concussion symptoms might last for just a couple of hours, or they could last for weeks. Unless the concussion or head injury has caused serious complications, like swelling or bleeding inside the skull, rest is usually all that’s required. The brain can usually re-adjust and heal with adequate rest.
Head injuries without concussion
I reared three daughters and now have eight rough-and-tumble grandchildren, so as you can imagine, I’m no stranger to head injuries. In fact, I’ve had a few, myself. External head injuries are usually not as bad as they might appear. I had my first head injury when I was two years old. I was riding a horse, and my older brother was leading me. He thought I would enjoy trotting, which I did. Unfortunately, the saddle was loose, and when we turned a corner, the saddle slipped, and so did I. mom took me immediately to the closest emergency room, where I received stitches. I still bear the scar from that horseback riding experience.
My second head injury occurred when I was twelve years old. I was at school, playing baseball on the lower campus. When a friend threw the bat up into the air, it landed on my forehead. It didn’t really hurt much. But it bled profusely. By the time I got to the school building, I was literally covered in blood. Even after all these years, I still have a small bump near my hairline from the impact with the bat.
I didn’t have any more brushes with head injuries (other than a concussion, which I’ll get to) until I had kids of my own. My ex, my kids, and I were visiting my parents, and I had gone to see an old friend. While I was at my friend’s house, my Mom called and said that my youngest daughter, who was three at the time, had fallen against the steps and that the ex was on his way to the hospital with her. Luckily, the friend I was visiting lived just a block from the ER, so I met the ex there. I was shocked when I saw my little girl! She was wrapped in a large towel that was completely saturated with blood. The staff took her to the back immediately, putting her before all the other patients who were waiting to be seen. I dreaded seeing the head injury. I just knew it had to be horrific with so much bleeding. When the towel was pulled away, however, it revealed a rather small gash. A couple of stitches closed the wound, and she didn’t have a concussion.
That’s the scary thing about head injuries. Even a minor one can bleed like crazy. That’s because there are so many blood vessels in the head and scalp. A simple scrape to the head will often bleed, usually more than you think would be possible. External head injuries like this usually aren’t serious, despite the amount of blood that might be present.
Head injury with concussion
I had my first head concussion when I was twelve. I had a Thoroughbred-cross mare that was very fast, and I was often racing her against other horses and riders. One Sunday afternoon, I was racing a guy who had been bragging about his paint, so of course, we had to race. Poco and I were in the lead when we came to the end of the dirt road. In front of us was a deep ditch, and to our left and right was another road. My mare didn’t want any other horse to get in front of her, so she was flying. I couldn’t stop her, so I got prepared to jump the ditch. When she turned right at the last second, I kept going straight, and I fell on my head. Poco came back to me, and I remounted and finished the race. We won! When I got back to the barn, however, I began to feel dizzy, and I had a terrible headache. Mom arrived at that point, and she took me to the ER. Yep, I had a mild concussion.
A couple of years later, a bunch of us were horseback riding one day, and once again, we were racing – bareback. Once again, Poco was far out front. One of my best friends, Avy, was in second place. Her mount was spooked by a four-wheeler, and she fell off. I went back to check on her, and another riding pal caught Avy’s horse. Avy hopped back on and seemed okay, but when we got to the barn, she was acting strange. She couldn’t remember the accident at all. She also didn’t know what day it was, or even what month it was. Avy had suffered a mild concussion, but she was fine the next day.
Fast forward to six or seven years later. Avy, my ex, and I decided to spend a weekend at my in-law’s cattle ranch. Of course, we just had to ride the cow horses. Avy was a good rider, but she had never worked cows on a cutting horse, and she wasn’t prepared for the sudden movements such a horse makes when cutting a single cow from the herd. Yep, she fell off again, and again, she seemed okay – at first. Soon after the experience, we went to a restaurant for dinner, and she starting acting strange. She ordered a big hamburger, and she cut it up into tiny pieces, bun and all. Suddenly, she looked down at her plate and asked who did that to her burger. She had no recollection of cutting up the sandwich! After we ate, we started on the trip home, and she became very nauseous. She threw up all over the side of our new truck. We got her to the ER, and the attending physician said Avy had a concussion. They kept her in the hospital overnight for observation. She was eventually okay, but this concussion took her several days to get over.
Years later, my middle daughter received a concussion from horseback riding. Actually, I guess I should say “horseback falling.” Shannon was about thirteen at the time. When her horse spooked, she fell onto a hard-packed clay road that was littered with rocks and gravel. The fall rendered her unconscious for four or five minutes, and some other riders brought her home. She was never nauseous, but she did have amnesia for a couple of days. Like my pal Avy, the hospital kept Shannon overnight, then she was released the next day. She had a headache for several days, and she never did regain her memory of events from the day of the accident.
When I was a kid, we never wore helmets for anything, except for maybe tackle football. I’m older and wiser now, and I’m a grandmother. I certainly see the importance of helmets now! Most modern helmets are heavily padded, which can help reduce the risk of concussion or head injury. You can find helmets for many different activities. There are bike helmets and motorcycle helmets, of course, and there are also ski helmets, snow mobile helmets, and horse riding helmets. Just think – if my pal, my daughter, and I had been wearing horse riding helmets, our head injuries and concussions could have been prevented.
Now, when my grown children and sons-in-law ride motorcycles, I nag them to wear motorcycle helmets. When I bought my granddaughter a pony, I insisted that she and her younger sister didn’t ride without horse riding helmets. I’m giving two of my grandsons bicycles for Christmas, and I bought bike helmets for them, too. Helmets don’t have to be “nerdy.” The bike helmets I bought for the boys are really cool! They both look like shark heads, with fins on top. They also have some really cute bike helmets for girls now. One we saw looked like a lady bug, complete with antennae. Please – if your kids are going to be involved with activities that could result in concussion or head injury, make them wear helmets!