The theme of 2011 National Neurosurgery Awareness Week, April 10-16, 2011, is There’s Always Another Game, but You Only Have One Brain. NNAW is held annually in celebration of American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) Annual Scientific Meetings. The 79th AANS Annual Meeting Scientific program starts officially on Monday, April 11 at the Colorado Convention Center. In advance of this meeting, researchers from AANS offered head injury prevention tips.
“There needs to be greater awareness about the potentially devastating consequences of head and spinal cord injuries associated with sports and all involved need to take steps to prevent these types of injuries,” said Gail L. Rosseau, MD, an AANS spokesperson.
Kicking off this year’s NNAW is a Community Kids Bike Helmet Day at INVESCO Field on Sunday afternoon; an invitation-only event where up to 250 kids grades K-5 will be fitted with free bike helmets. The event is cosponsored by the AANS and the ThinkFirst Injury Prevention Foundation. Later that evening, the first ever sports-related themed AANS Opening Reception will take place at INVESCO Field. Among the planned activities are stations devoted to football, skiing and snowboarding, bicycling, summer sports, and ice hockey; streaming video presentations; special exhibits; a raffle; and sports celebrity appearances. The Community Kids Bike Helmet Day and Opening Reception are ticketed events – and NOT open to the public.
There were an estimated 446,788 sports-related head injuries treated at U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2009. This number represents an increase of nearly 95,000 sports-related injuries from the prior year. All of the top 20 sports posted increases in the number of injuries treated in 2009, except for trampolines. Sports that exhibited statistically significant increases from 2008 to 2009 included:
- Water Sports – 11,239 to 28,716
- Cycling – 70,802 to 85,389
- Baseball and Softball – 26,964 to 38,394
- Basketball – 27,583 to 34,692
- Football – 40,825 to 46,948
- Soccer – 19,252 to 24,184
Not surprisingly, several ill-advised, but common practices can lead to water sports-related head injury. These included diving into shallow water, running on the swimming pool deck, fooling around/goofing off, drinking alcohol while boating, and age-inappropriate activities.
Every year, more than 500,000 people visit emergency rooms in the United States with bicycle-related injuries. More than 85,000 people were treated for bicycle-related head injuries in 2009, and of those, nearly half were children age 14 and younger. There are about 600 bicycling deaths a year, with two-thirds attributed to traumatic brain injury.
The annual incidence of football-related concussion in the United States is estimated at 300,000 and nearly 47,000 football-related head injuries were serious enough to be treated at U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2009. While football is a collision sport with inevitable risks, most serious neurological injuries can be prevented if players, parents and coaches take injury prevention and concussions seriously. Football players who have sustained a concussion need to be withheld from play until all physical and neuropsychological symptoms and signs related to that concussion have resolved and they are cleared to return to play through an independent healthcare professional.
AANS Head Injury Prevention Tips
Buy and use helmets or protective head gear approved by the ASTM International for specific sports 100 percent of the time. The ASTM has vigorous standards for testing helmets for many sports; helmets approved by the ASTM bear a sticker stating this. Helmets and head gear come in many sizes and styles for many sports and must properly fit to provide maximum protection against head injuries.
In addition to other safety apparel or gear, helmets or head gear should be worn at all times for:
- Baseball and Softball (when batting)
- Horseback Riding
- Inline Skating
- Powered Recreational Vehicles
- Supervise younger children at all times, and do not let them use sporting equipment or play sports unsuitable for their age.
- Do not dive in water less than 12 feet deep or in above-ground pools.
- Follow all rules at water parks and swimming pools.
- Wear appropriate clothing for the sport.
- Do not wear any clothing that can interfere with your vision.
- Do not participate in sports when you are ill or very tired.
- Obey all traffic signals, and be aware of drivers when cycling or skateboarding, or rollerblading.
- Avoid uneven or unpaved surfaces when cycling or skateboarding, or rollerblading.
- Perform regular safety checks of sports fields, playgrounds and equipment.
- Discard and replace sporting equipment or protective gear that is damaged.
More information is available at http://www.aans.org/PatientInformation.aspx. Click on Conditions and Treatments and Patient Safety for more on sports-related injury prevention.
Material adapted from American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS).