Biking and Concussions: Recognize the Symptoms
Cycling is a popular recreational activity and some Minnesotans’ preferred mode of transportation. More than half of us ride a bike throughout the year. However, riding a bike on Minnesota roadways also comes with its own set of risks and hazards. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, 942 bicyclists were injured in accidents in 2011.
CONCUSSIONS AND TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY
When you fall off your bike, road rash is the least of your worries. Even if you wear a properly-fitted helmet, there is no guarantee that a helmet will prevent you from sustaining a head injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a concussion as “a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) which is caused by a jolt, blow, or bump to the head.”
Even the aftermath of a mild concussion could be serious and even life-threatening. Sometimes cyclists continue to ride their bike because they don’t experience immediate symptoms after they fall. According to Dr. Anna Abramson, co-founder of the Medicine of Cycling and from the University of California, San Francisco, cyclists don’t always lose consciousness as a result of concussions, and sometimes physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms may not show up for days or even weeks.
WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION: WARNING SIGNS OF A CONCUSSION
The USA Cycling website recommends that after a fall or crash on your bike, you should be immediately evaluated by a medical doctor. Remember to show your damaged helmet to your doctor. This will help the doctor determine the severity of the impact. Make sure the doctor examines your entire body and not just your head.
It’s important not to wait too long to be examined by a doctor. Watch for these signs and symptoms that could indicate a concussion.
Nausea and/or vomiting
Loss or change in consciousness
Cognitive issues – confusion and slow or slurred speech
Inability to swallow
Forgetfulness and/or amnesia
If you experience severe symptoms (as indicated below), call 911 immediately or go to a hospital emergency room.
Clear fluid leaking from nose or ears
Inability to walk in a straight line
If you are unable to transport yourself due to your injuries, ask a friend or family member to drive you to the hospital. It’s dangerous to drive after a concussion, as you could faint or have a seizure.
FOLLOW-UP CARE AFTER A CONCUSSION
If you experience severe fatigue as a result of your concussion, get plenty of rest. However, The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that a patient should be awakened every two hours during the first 24 hours after their concussion to watch for signs of brain trauma.
The American College of Sports Medicine suggests complete rest and no physical activity after your concussion as your brain needs time to properly heal. During your recuperation, follow all your doctor’s instructions. Wait until your symptoms have cleared before resuming normal, daily activities, which includes taking medical leave from your job or school.
For more helpful tips about what to watch for if you suspect a concussion, check out the American Association of Neurological Surgeons website.