Cycling-Related Concussions: How to Keep Yourself Safe
Cycling offers a thrilling sense of adventure and exploration, granting access to scenic trails and breathtaking views that cars can’t reach. It’s an excellent form of cardio, burning calories while being gentle on your joints. It’s accessible to almost everyone, regardless of your fitness level. You can take things at your own pace, making it an inclusive and enjoyable activity for everyone.
However, we need to be mindful of something often overlooked — cycling-related concussions. These are head injuries that happen while cycling. While concussions are a concern in many sports, cycling-related concussions are particularly more concerning due to high-speed crashes and the limited protection that cyclists have.
So before you hop on your bike and experience a feeling of freedom like no other, it is essential to know how to protect yourself.
Wear a high-quality helmet that fits properly.
When cycling, it’s important to wear a high-quality helmet to protect your head when engaging in activities where head injuries are a risk. Studies indicate that wearing a helmet that fits you well may reduce the risk of severe head injuries or fatalities. However, it’s worth noting that helmets can’t prevent concussions. Yes, you’ve heard that right! The movement of the brain inside the skull during a sudden and huge impact can still lead to a concussion despite wearing a helmet. Still, a helmet may help lessen the seriousness of potential injuries.
To keep you safe, remember to wear your helmet every time you ride and ensure it fits properly. The front edge should rest about 1 inch above your eyebrows. Additionally, when the strap is secured, the helmet should not be easily removable from your head.
Know the signs and symptoms.
You shouldn’t downplay or ignore a possible head injury. The thing is, concussions often go unreported by athletes in various sports, including cycling. Here are some concussion signs and symptoms to watch out for:
· Post-traumatic amnesia
· Severe headache
· Cognitive issues (slurred speech and confusion)
· Helmet damage
· Inability to walk on a straight path
· Fluid leaking from ears or nose
If you experience any of these signs and symptoms after a cycling accident, it’s best to seek medical assistance immediately. Taking the necessary precautions and allowing sufficient time for recovery can prevent further complications and ensure your well-being in the long run.
Complete a concussion baseline test.
Baseline tests should be done by everyone who is at risk for a concussion, including cyclists. It evaluates your performance on various cognitive and neurological tests, such as memory, reaction time, processing speed, balance, attention span, and problem-solving, before any concussion occurs. The data gathered from baseline testing serves as a reference point for your normal cognitive function.
If you do sustain a concussion, comparing your post-injury test results to the baseline data can be immensely helpful for you and your medical provider. It assists in determining when it’s safe to resume physical activities and sports.
Land on your side or back
Incase you fall while cycling, aim to land on your side or back to lower the risk of concussion, facial injuries, and neck strain. Landing on your side or back also decreases the likelihood of secondary collisions. For example, if you land on your side, you are less likely to bounce or roll into another object, reducing the risk of additional injuries.
Avoid high-intensity or unfamiliar terrain.
Sure it’s tempting to challenge yourself with adventurous and thrilling rides, but doing so without proper training can increase the risk of cycling-related concussions. Avoid pushing beyond your comfort zone, which can lead to risky situations. Choose routes that match your current skills and face obstacles appropriately. Don’t forget to prioritize safety by wearing high-quality gear.
Ride at a safe speed
Most importantly, practice riding at a safe speed and maintain a controlled space to reduce the risk of accidents and potential head injuries. Slowing down allows better visibility of your surroundings and avoiding potential dangers while on the road. Moreover, this will help you maintain stability and control to prevent loss of balance on slippery roads or challenging terrains.
There’s no doubt that cycling offers lots of health benefits, but it’s essential to recognize the risks of cycling-related concussions. Unfortunately, most athletes often ignore and deny that they are experiencing concussions even when they are showing symptoms. That’s why it’s also important to learn about concussion management and to be aware of the proper treatment to minimize the risk of having long-term or severe brain damage.