Winter X Games: Bringing Awareness to Winter Sports Injuries
While some dread the sight of snow, others look forward to it all year. The winter months bring some of the most intense sports like skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. Every winter since 1997, Aspen Colorado hosts the biggest winter sports competition of them all – The Winter X Games.
From a spectator’s perspective, the Winter X Games may seem like all fun and games, but to athletes, it’s one of the hardest things they have ever done. From broken legs to fractured vertebras, the Winter X games have seen some major injuries. However, the most common injury sustained by athletes is a concussion.
The concern of concussions in sports has been on the rise in recent years. In 2015, the movie Concussion was released and showcased Pittsburgh forensic pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu. In 2002, after handling former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster’s autopsy, Omalu studied the long-term effects of repeated head injuries.
While this study brought light to the long-term effects of head injuries in the NFL, some athletes – specifically winter athletes who lack support of a league or team – still disregard reporting their head injury. Many athletes fear that due to any sort of head injury, they will be benched for any activity.
Justin Dorey, retired freeskiing X Games star reports: “If you hit your head before the X Games, you are not telling anybody because they will take you out. Maybe it is a minor hit and you’ll probably be fine. But if it is more serious than you think and you hit your head again, it gets bad quick. A couple times I hit my head and didn’t tell anybody because I didn’t want them to stop me from skiing.”
Dorey has experienced multiple concussions in the past, but after taking more than 18 months to recover from a slam to his head after jumping off a rope swing into a lake, Dorey had to retire as a professional skier at the age of 28. However, he isn’t the only winter athlete who suffers from long-term effects from concussions.
In 2013 X Games snowboarder, Halldor Helgason, needed a perfect score on his qualifying run in the Big Air competition. Naturally, Helgason wanted to try something big and incredibly difficult. However, instead of sticking his landing, he took a 75-foot hard fall. ESPN’s initial reports state that Helgason suffered a concussion and, for a time, lost consciousness after the hard hit.
According to brainline.org, “people may have a headache or dizziness for a day or so and then recovery fully, but a very small group of people who sustain a concussion — five percent — can develop bleeding or a blood clot that can be life threatening if not promptly diagnosed. Brain injuries are extremely common, but diagnosis can be complicated. Today, there is no single, objective measure that can determine if someone has had a concussion. To make a diagnosis, professionals look at many variables that might indicate trauma, ranging from changes in balance to memory lapses and dizziness.”
It’s not rare to suffer head injuries while engaging in physical activity. If you have experienced a hit to the head, or in doubt of its severity, it’s best to get prompt medical attention.
Photo via Zach Dischner