Winter Sports and Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness

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January 30, 2019

By Elizabeth L. Augustine, MS, LAT, ATC

January is National Winter Sports Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Awareness Month. It serves to bring awareness to TBI and concussion as well as to educate on precautions while engaging in winter sports, such as toboggining, snow skiing and snowboarding. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) a TBI is a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.¹ It is easy to see why outdoor winter sports and TBIs or concussions can go hand in hand. With the high velocities and the potential for traumatic impacts, there is a great chance for concussions among these patients. As Athletic Trainers (ATs), the patients we treat may be involved in winter sports at school or outside of school.

Two common winter sports are snowboarding and skiing. According to Gil, DeFroda, Kriz and Owens, the current trend for incidence of TBI or concussions in snowboarding and skiing is stable, in comparison to previous reported years. Between 2010 and 2014, there were 5,388 skiing-related concussions and 5,558 snowboarding-related concussions presented to emergency rooms in the United States. The incidence for concussion in pediatric and adolescents was higher for these 2 sports as well. The study also found that males had a higher incidence of concussion than females in both skiing and snowboarding.² The study went on to suggest that continued vigilance and education for patients engaging in these activities and other winter sports is important.

An upcoming study by the Journal of Athletic Training looked at the influence of an AT in concussion reporting and management in Wisconsin high schools. The study found that those schools with a high AT availability (AT availability was determined by the expected total number of athletes per hours that the AT was on site) were more likely to have a concussion identified in comparison to a low AT availability. Fifty percent of high school athletes who sustained concussions at schools with low AT availability underwent a return-to-play protocol versus 100% at schools with high AT availability. Athletes with concussions at schools with high AT availability were kept out of sport for longer than those at schools with low AT availability.³ From this study, ATs are vital in not only helping to evaluate concussions, but to properly manage and get patients safely back to their sports.

What a great example of what an ATs can do! With the winter sports season upon us, take the time to educate your patient not only on concussions and concussion management, but also on the ATs role in concussion management. Be prepared to educate even those patients who may recreationally participate in winter sports. Safety tips for snowboarding and skiing include wearing helmets that fit properly, ensuring other equipment fits properly and is in good condition, and patients should know their own limit. Beginner snowboarders should never go out alone.⁴



2. Gil, J.A.; DeFroda, S.F.; Kriz, P; Owens, B.D. Epidemiology of snow skiing– versus snowboarding-related concussions presenting to the emergency department in the United States from 2010 to 2014.Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. 2017:27(5): 499-502. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000395.

3. T.A. McGuine; A.Y. Pfaller; E.G. Post; S.J. Hetzel; A. Brooks; S.P. Broglio.The influence of athletic trainers on the incidence and management of concussions in high school athletes.Journal of Athletic Training.2018. 53(11):000–000. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-209-18

4. Sport Lifestyle 360. Winter sports safety tips. December 31, 2018.


About the Author

Elizabeth augustine

Elizabeth L. Augustine, MS, LAT, ATC has been an Athletic Trainer since 2006 and lives in Claypool, Indiana. She graduated from Manchester College with degrees in Athletic Training and Exercise Science and a minor in Spanish in 2006. She received her Master’s in Organizational Leadership and Supervision for Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne in 2009. She currently works as an Athletic Trainer for a Sports Medicine doctor in Warsaw, Indiana. Her athletic training interests include concussions, creating policies and procedures, and injury rehabilitation. In her spare time, she enjoys running, playing tennis, doing puzzles, and spending time with her husband and two young daughters.

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