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More skiers, snowboarders becoming attuned to the risks of TBIs

The term "traumatic brain injury" has slowly entered the popular lexicon over the last decade. Whether propelled by stories about the dangers facing professional football players or the challenges facing our returning veterans, more people than ever have an understanding of how a traumatic brain injury -- or "TBI" -- can result in a variety of disabilities ranging from minor cognition and communication problems to the onset of major behavioral/mental health issues.

However, while society has a greater understanding of TBIs as a whole, they may not appreciate the extent to which they are misdiagnosed by medical professionals and the devastation that this can cause.

To illustrate, physicians in hectic hospital or urgent care settings often do not devote significant time to examining a patient with a possible TBI, dismissing their complaints of dizziness, blurred vision, loss of balance as symptoms of other, less serious conditions. Sadly, this can result in irreparable harm to the TBI patient and, by extension, their loved ones.

Interestingly, those participating in one of the more popular outdoor activities here in Pennsylvania and across the United States appear to be catching on to all of the dangers posed by TBIs and actively taking steps to protect themselves.

The National Ski Areas Association has found that over the last ten years, the number of skiers and snowboarders wearing helmets has increased from 25 percent to 67 percent.

While you may not automatically associate either activity with TBIs, consider the high rate of speed at which participants travel, the various dangers they routinely face (collisions with stationary objects, falls heights of 10 feet or greater, simple falls to the ground, etc.), and the proliferation of so-called terrain parks.

In fact, a recent study by researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine -- published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery -- went so far as to recommend that every participant in alpine sports wear some type of head protection.

Here's hoping that more people participating in activities with even the slightest risk of head injuries take steps to protect themselves not only from the dangers of TBIs but from the associated risk of misdiagnosis by medical professionals.

Please visit our website to learn more about traumatic brain injuries.

Source: KKCO-11, "Brain injuries decrease with skier helmets on the rise," Rabah Kamal, Feb. 11, 2013

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