Competing in the Winter Olympics? Playing some pick-up hockey with friends on the weekend? There are various forms of fun winter sports; unfortunately, many of these sports can be dangerous. They can result in serious injuries if the proper precautions are not taken. January is National Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Awareness Month and we’re discussing preventive methods and equipment. Plus, get expert recommendations on preventing accidents and oral health injuries from professional ski racer Jacob Dilling!
Tips for Preventing Injuries During Winter Sports:
Traumatic brain injuries are scary. They are the most serious of injuries a person can suffer. While many sports can cause head or neck injuries, some of the riskiest can be:
- Mountain biking
We interviewed Jacob Dilling, a rising star on the U.S. Ski Racing Team. As a ski racer, Dilling is aware of the dangers that are involved and shared with us that while the sport has upgraded its equipment to prevent these types of injuries, there’s always danger involved.
“In the summer when I have off-snow training, our coaches have us practice falling in the gym,” said Dilling. “We do this so that when we do fall at top speeds, we fall to avoid head and neck injuries.” Practicing falling in a safe area can help your body’s muscle memory react appropriately when you’re doing the real deal. Besides practice, what else can athletes do to protect themselves during winter sports activities?
Equipment for prevention:
1. Mouthguards for sports: Mouthguards are an essential form of protection from injuries across many sports, for all ages. There are three different types of mouthguards:
- Ready-made or stock mouthguard: Since the fit can’t be adjusted, they’re less effective than a fitted option.
- Mouth-formed “boil and bite” mouthguard: These can be purchased at many sporting goods stores and can be molded to the individual’s mouth.
- Custom-made mouthguard: These are considered the best option, but they’re also the most expensive.
During our interview with Dilling, he discussed his use of mouthguards. “I use a custom-made mouthguard because it’s the most effective and stays locked into your teeth better than the others. My protection is important because I’m always skiing on the edge and one mistake could result in broken bones or teeth being knocked out.”
It makes sense that Dilling uses a custom-made mouthguard because he’s skiing at extremely fast speeds and could lose control. This puts his well-being at risk more than the average skier. But keep in mind when you’re participating in these sports that any mouthguard is better than no mouthguard.
2. Helmets for sports:
Depending on the sport you’re playing, a helmet is often required to prevent injuries to the head. Winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding don’t require a helmet. But about 30 percent of concussions in extreme sports occurred in snowboarding, and snow skiing was associated with about 25 percent of concussions. Although a helmet is not mandatory when skiing or snowboarding, concussion numbers are so high, use of a helmet is recommended.
Dilling discusses how a helmet is an important part of his equipment: “I use the best helmets on the market and when I am slalom skiing, I have a chin bar to prevent against broken teeth and gate slaps to the face/head area.” It’s clear that helmets play a huge role in protecting the head and neck area across many different sports and can be the difference when protecting against serious injury.
As you can see there are various winter sports that may expose you to the risk for traumatic brain injuries, and these tips may help prevent some of these injuries.
National Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Awareness Month brings attention to one of the leading causes of injuries across all sports. Click here for more information on traumatic brain injuries and visit our blog to learn more about oral health and other ways to prevent injuries during the winter months!