Several hospitals in Minnesota’s Twin Cities have launched “Save This Brain” campaigns to get skiers, sledders and snowboarders to all wear helmets.
One of the participants is the Traumatic Brain Injury Center at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), which in a press release Thursday said that it is reminding winter sportsmen and women to “Get Your Head in Gear!”
“Getting in gear means putting helmets on those heads to reduce the risk for brain injury,” the announcement said. “Starting this Saturday and continuing throughout the winter, HCMC will be at various Twin Cities ski slopes providing information to skiers and snowboarders about the importance of wearing a helmet.”
Competitive snowboarder Dylan Ludovissie will be helping HCMC get its message out, as he sustained several head injuries when he wasn’t wearing a helmet. He will be making appearances at the weekend events at area ski slopes.
“The risk factors scared me into wearing one,” Ludovissie said in a statement. “Like if you experience a head injury, you might not be the same afterward.”
Doctors also weighed in on the campaign.
“Maybe you’re the best skier or snowboarder in the world, but there are others on the hill who might run into you at high speeds — so you should always wear a helmet,” physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist Dr. Brionn Tonkin said in a statement. “And besides, who doesn’t look good in a helmet?
“A lot of people think that you have to be knocked out to have a brain injury or head injury and that’s not true,” Tonkin continued. “They fall down and hit their head, feel a little dizzy — or even say that they ‘saw stars.’ These can certainly be signs of a mild head injury. One of the most common symptoms, however, is headaches right after the fall — or even days, weeks or months after the fall.”
Tonkin also warned that changes in sleep patterns, like not being able to sleep or sleeping too much, or mood changes or anxiety can indicate that you may have experienced a brain injury. Other symptoms can include memory loss or word- finding issues.
Wearing a helmet this winter can also help skiers and snowboarders win prizes at HCMC-sponsored events at various local ski destinations.
Representatives from HCMC’s Traumatic Brain Injury program and other sponsors will be at each Snow Jam with games and prizes including Timberwolves tickets and ski helmet giveaways. Skiers and snowboarders “caught” wearing a helmet by the ski patrol will get a coupon for Dairy Queen. Ski patrol will also have information to provide to skiers who fall, explaining the signs and symptoms of a brain injury.
The first Snow Jam is this Saturday, Dec. 29, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Buck Hill in Bloomington, Minn. It’s free and the first 90 people to register will get into a rail jam competition.
Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota is also doing a “Save This Brain initiative. On Thursday it handed out free helmets at what the Minneapolis Star Tribune called “sledding safety flash mobs” at two Minneapolis parks.
The newspaper quoted an official from Children’s who said that the most severe sledding injuries they have seen are head injuries, with four children admitted for such injuries in recent weeks. The Star Tribune cited a 2010 study that said more than 20,000 children and teens a year come to emergency rooms for sledding injuries, and that one-third of those are head injuries.
HCMC told the newspaper that since 2008, 91 people have come to that medical facility with brain injuries from winter sports, and 23 of them involved sledding accidents.