Accidents and crashing is a hopefully infrequent occurrence in cycling, but when it does occur, care must be taken in the process of getting back out on the bike again. Beyond bike inspection along with caring for road rash and other obvious physical issues, the biggest issue is to make sure the head and brain are OK, and that means peering into the emerging science of concussions.
Concussions can occur in almost any sport. However, the risk and severity of concussion injury can be magnified by the high-speed nature of cycling. The mechanisms of brain injury associated with concussion injury are not completely understood. However, It is important to know that one can suffer a concussion without losing consciousness or having memory loss. Once someone has experienced one concussion, it is easier to suffer more in future and symptoms can become more severe and last longer each time a concussion is suffered.
The acute symptoms of a concussion can include:
- nausea and vomiting
- ringing in the ears
- slurred speech
- feeling 'in a fog'
- double or blurred vision
- sensitivity to light or sound
- difficulty with memory and concentration
- poor coordination and balance
Tools for Diagnosing Concussions
Similar to many sport events, the decision to return to cycling training and/or competition often has to be made quickly. Ideally, a cyclist's condition should be assessed in a quiet area away from teammates and other distractions. A rapid assessment of a concussed cyclist's orientation, memory, concentration and coordination can be done using the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2 (SCAT 2), which was developed by the Zurich Concussion Consensus. The SCAT2 can be completed using a paper copy, on a web-based progam, or as an iPad, iPhone, or iTouch application.
If an athlete reports any symptoms, regardless of severity, or if the SCAT2 assessment is abnormal in any way, the cyclist showed immediately be removed from training/competition. The athlete should not be left alone and must be watched for the development of new symptoms or change of consciousness. The cyclist should be evaluated by a physician. If there is any doubt, keep the cyclist out!
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What not to do immediately after suffering a concussion:
- Any physical activity
- Consume alcohol or take sleeping pills or anti-anxiety medications
- Taking acetominophen, ibuprofen (or other anti-inflammatory medication), narcotics or any other medications to treat headache pain. One should actually use headaches to monitor the possibility of a more serious head injury. If the severity of headache progressively increases or becomes unbearable, then one should immediately seek medical attention.
- Driving or operating machinery, including their bike