Wanaka people heading for the slopes and sports grounds this winter need to be aware of the risks of concussion, says John Cruickshank, of Wanaka.
Concussion after a mountain biking accident two years ago still affects Mr Cruickshank.
“I just have to wrap myself in cotton wool now,” he said.
Wearing a helmet “saved my life”, but the accident “bucked me over the handlebars, and I slowed myself down with my face” .
Mr Cruickshank was knocked out for 10 minutes and was taken to a first aid tent where he had a seizure.
“I was spewing blood, and then I was taken in an ambulance to the medical centre.”
The first year after the accident was a “big blur”, Mr Cruickshank said.
They had a new puppy but “I don’t really remember walking him”.
“A bunch of friends came to visit me as well – a lot that first week – but I don’t really remember them visiting.”
Winter sports including skiing, snowboarding, rugby, soccer and mountain biking can all have concussion dangers, say Wanaka physiotherapists Vicki Hill and Catherine Anderson, of Central Lakes Physiotherapy and Pilates, and Southern Rehab occupational therapist Andrew Thompson.
They are encouraging people to recognise the signs of concussion by putting on a free information evening.
“If you have a concussion, you don’t necessarily have to lose consciousness,” Mrs Anderson said.
Concussion could also happen without hitting your head, she said.
“What a concussion is, is the brain moving and stretching inside your skull, like a big jelly on a plate.
“And that’s what causes the concussion, not necessarily the hit of the head, it’s the deceleration – that change of speed.
“An actual diagnosis of concussion needs to be made by a doctor,” she said.
If there were signs something was wrong, even for a mild concussion, it was best to go to the doctor, she said.
“That’s why when you are concerned with someone to get them to the doctor to get the diagnosis.”
With externalphysical injuries it was often easier to understand how they were healing, but concussion could take longer, and often it was when people went back to work that difficulties concentrating emerged, Ms Hill said.
Upper Clutha Rugby premier coach Paul Glynn worked with Ms Hill to get every player on his squad tested at the beginning of the season.
“I think it is bringing a huge awareness to the players now that you can’t afford to play around with the top two inches,” he said.
In the past players had gone on to have permanent damage and were no longer playing, Mr Glynn said.
Accident Compensation Corporation senior injury prevention specialist Nat Hardaker said early management was key to minimising the risk of further harm.
“Only a doctor can assess and diagnose concussion, but we can all play a part in getting people in front of a doctor when we are worried someone has been concussed,” he said.
“Players need to take care of themselves, and look out for their their teammates.
“Parents and coaches need to look out for the players too. The golden rule of thumb has to be ‘if in doubt sit them out’.”
Free concussion information evening
Upper Clutha Rugby Club