Dorky, Disabled, or Dead?

When I was about 8 years old I was riding my bike in the park near my home when another kid hit me with a beach ball. I fell and hit my head on the asphalt. I remember walking my bike up the hill to my grandmother’s house, but I don’t remember making it there. The next thing I remember is being in an ambulance and seeing the flashing lights outside. I also don’t remember being in the hospital with a concussion, but I’m told I was. A few days later I was home.

In the newspaper this week I read about a local boy, 10 years old, playing at an outdoor skating rink. The report doesn’t state that he was playing hockey, but apparently some other kids were. A puck went into the snowbank and he went to retrieve it. While he did, another puck hit him in the head. He was rushed to hospital where he died the next day.

Neither I nor this other boy were wearing helmets. Thirty-five years ago, kids hardly ever wore helmets for anything. (After my concussion, my mother made me wear a helmet whenever I rode a bike, even though I looked and felt like a dork.) Today, helmets are much more common, but not common enough.

According to the Brain Injury Association of America there are 1.4 million annual incidents of traumatic brain injuries in the U.S. each year, far outnumbering cases of Multiple Sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, HIV/AIDS, and breast cancer combined. Of that, 50,000 are fatal. 80,000 people are left with lifetime disabilities. 0 to 4 year olds and 15 to 19 year olds are most at risk.

If your child sustains a blow to the head, watch for dilated pupils, vision and eye movement changes, dizziness, confusion, vomiting, lethargy, slow pulse, or difficulty breathing. If you see any of these symptoms, or if you notice anything else out of the ordinary, get your child to a hospital immediately.

Even serious brain injuries, if detected in time, may be treatable. But prevention is always better than a cure. Make your child wear a helmet when biking, skating, skateboarding, or playing any contact sport. Thirty-five years ago helmet selection was very limited. Thus my dorky appearance. Today, there’s a wide range of colors and styles available; helmets can be cool.

Keep your kids safe.