On March 13, 2013, a TIME magazine article cited an article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine entitled “Helmets and Mouthguards Do Not Prevent Concussions.” This statement was not declared by one person but heralded and agreed upon by a consensus of the top researchers in the world.
So why is there so much money and research being poured into better helmets and mouth guards? REVENUE! The more products that are placed on the market and advertised as being helpful and needed for safety sake, the more that they drive up the demand from conscientious, yet sometimes naive patrons.
For our purposes, let’s focus on kids. Do kids need to wear helmets and mouth pieces when participating in sports and other engaging activities? Absolutely! Yet what is equally as important as wearing a helmet or mouthpiece is that they fit and are functioning properly. A proper fitting helmet can help prevent head and face injuries, dental injuries, as well as, TMJ and neck injuries. It is important in fitting a helmet to consider the size, cushioning, chin strap and mouth piece. So why is there agreement by the top researchers that a helmet and mouthpiece won’t save you from concussions? Let’s keep it simple. Think of your brain as an egg yolk and your skull as the egg shell. If you put bubble wrap around an egg and drop it, the shell may or may not break but the yoke on the inside will surely be sloshed around. This simple example is what can occur to your brain at various contact and even non-contact events; and this is not taking into consideration other important factors such as the rotation of the head and the angles and speed of the force. Also worthy of noting is that the matter that holds the brain in place is not strong in the younger developing brain making our children more susceptible to traumatic brain injuries.
So what can we do to help? PREVENTION. We discussed that proper fitting equipment is extremely important. Additionally, EDUCATION! Learn More! There is a plethora of reliable and relevant informational material available. The CDC is a great place to start along with the Brain Injury Association of Maryland. Additionally, the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks conduct classes for youth coaches 3-4 times a year. In fact, the next class will be on April 2, 2013 at 6pm at Old Mill High School where I will be giving more useful information.
Although information is ever changing, create you educational baseline, continually observe and keep learning! If something does happen and you are not sure what to do, get help immediately.
I will do my part to help keep you updated. I am Dr. Sok.