Skip to main content

Concussions

   Three years ago I purchased a Giro Chronicle helmet. I love this thing, its got a nice wide visor and plenty of vents. It fits snug, never bounces around, and the rear wraps around low to protect the whole back of my melon. The very best thing about it though, is a little round, yellow sticker that says Mips, short for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System. In case you haven't noticed, every helmet for every sport is starting to incorporate this new tech to help prevent concussions. I first noticed it in a ski shop several years ago and asked the salesperson about it. She waved her hand across racks of helmets both with and without Mips, "All of these helmets will save your life," she said, "But the Mips helmets will keep you from getting a concussion."

   Having already logged a few of these brain killers,  I was ready to try anything to prevent another. So I hung up my trusty, but Mipless, Bern helmet and threw on the Giro.
   In Mat Hoffman's book, The Ride of My Life he discusses how pro ramp riders dealt with concussions back in the days of big halfpipe riding. It centers around an incident when a pro named Simon Tabron crashed in a competition and knocked himself out. After he came to, Simon insisted he would finish the competition despite warnings from his friends and medical staff. As you might guess, he dropped in for another run, only to crash again and sustain much worse injuries. After this happened the community of pros established "Tabron's Rule." The rule declared that after a knock out you are no longer fit to determine your own ability to continue. If one of your peers calls the rule on you, you need to obey because they are only doing it for your own good. Hoffman describes the frustration of having the rule called on himself, and the gratitude  he later felt towards his friends for protecting him from further injury.
amazing book!

   Unfortunately, I have friends who don't read books, so I experienced a situation like this much differently. My friend Logan and I were having a session at a local road gap. Ok, it was actually a golf cart path gap, which doesn't sound as gnarly, but the physics are the same. Back then, I had pinch no-handers completely dialed on dirt jumps. I could approach the lip of a jump, firmly squeeze my seat between my knees and just let go of the bars as my wheels left the ground. I could do it all, clapping hands behind my back, or straight out to the side like an eagle, hands over my eyes, jazz hands, you name it.




  So, I thought if I could nail a no-hander on a jump, a straight ledge to a drop shouldn't be much different. Turns out, it is quite different.  I pedaled hard towards the edge, sailed over the cart path, pinched the seat and let go. Then I felt the seat slip away from my knees as the whole bike tipped away in front of me and I fell flat to my back on the hard ground. My cheap, skid-lid helmet hit the ground hard and I saw stars. I didn't lose consciousness, but I definitely had my bell rung. I picked up my bike and found a severely tacoed front wheel. "Definitely time to call it a day." I thought.
"Aww come on!" Logan said, " I've got a spare wheel right in the car for you! Let's swap it out and keep going. " Long story short, I did keep riding and got myself even more hurt.

Me at the cart gap


Logan at the cart gap


The truth is, someone who's suffered a concussion does need help. Whether this is a riding partner or some rando who goes down hard at Valmont, you might be the first person to arrive at their side. The person coming to is like a computer slowly rebooting. Their brain may struggle to perform even the most simple functions. The best you can do is to help them remain calm and slowly let them understand the gravity of the situation. This can be very frightening and confusing.
   My friend Bucky helped another dirt jumper who had been KOed. He described the experience  to me.
"The main thing through it all was reassurance and making sure he knew everything was going to be alright. No matter how many times I had to repeat myself. His short term memory loss was incredible. It would take a matter of seconds and he would ask the exact same questions. The onset was quick too. We were headed back up for another run after his crash because he said he would be ok then next thing I knew he was asking what we were doing and how did he get there. But we would answer his questions like they were the first time we'd asked, and kept on letting him know everything would be ok. I also remember letting him know where we were headed because we wanted to get him checked out at the hospital. Having short term memory loss like that is super scary and you have to wait to laugh 'til after he's healed before you can all laugh about it together."
   Years after my crash, Logan came to visit in Longmont. I had been telling him about the amazing skate park we had at Sandstone. He was a DH racer and a dirt jumper, but he was interested in trying a skate park. We unloaded bikes and rode into the park, I saw some other riders I knew and stopped to say hi. Out of the corner of my eye I watched Logan take one lap around the perimeter of the park and then drop straight into the deep end of the bowl at the northern end of Sandstone. As I watched this happen I thought, "Either he is really good, or he's in big trouble." That bowl is about 12 feet deep with over-vert transitions peeling in from all sides. We ran over and looked down. He was all tangled in the bike, knocked out cold in an expanding pool of blood.
He woke up as we were climbing down and started extricating himself from the bike. We placed a  tshirt against his broken nose to stop the bleeding. Then we got him to lay down and stop moving. One of the other riders who was there calmly ran him through a series of questions that helped straighten him out and prevented shock from setting in. She asked him things like his name and date of birth, which he didn't immediately know.
Soon, Paramedics stabilized him on a backboard and pulled him up out of the bowl. By that time his answers were becoming more clear.
    I'm not sure how to sum up this post, sometimes I lose focus and can't remember the point I was trying to make. Basically there are two important things to remember about concussions. Upgrade to a helmet with Mips technology, maybe you can prevent a concussion in the first place. Next, be ready to help someone who's suffered a concussion. They could be frightened and confused. Lastly, don't be afraid to invoke "Tabron's Rule." Even if the concussed rider seems to be ok, a few more runs after a bad crash just aren't worth it.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

John Biro and the Dirt Bike (Not Bike Related)

  I knew John Biro. I was lucky to meet him early in my short time in that part of the mountains. At his service lots of people told great stories about him. Lots of people knew him better and new him longer. My Biro story is just a tiny scrap in the mountain of stories that could be told about him. But I want to tell it anyway, because I feel like one day his boys might be looking for new stories, little stories, everyday stories, about  their dad. I don’t want to tell a story about myself, I want to tell a story about Biro, but I just happen to be in it.   I first met Biro on his birthday in 1998. Shane and Marvelous Marvin led me up to his cabin. I had been sledding up Kebler before, and into Robinson basin. But I had always skirted around the townsite. The town site was forbidden, unless you had a reason to be there. I was excited to finally enter this mysterious place where smoke trickled from the chimney's of odd little cabins covered in snow. I stayed all day at the party a

LHC True Crime

   It was naive of me to think I could just sit down and throw together a post about murders in Left Hand Canyon. I'm not into true crime shows or podcasts. I don't know how those writers do it. With each new detail I read, the stories just became more sad and bleak. I felt like a ghoul as I uncovered each new tale of a life lost.   So why even bother? Shouldn't things in the past just stay in the past? The blood on the trail has long since faded into the dirt under our tires. When we go out in those woods on our mountain bikes we experience pure joy and happiness.  Should that be tainted by the notion that on the very same spot, some people experienced the brutal last moments of their lives?   I don't have any of these answers. But I started to feel that if we are going to dance on graves we should at least be aware that the graves are there. Ok, maybe not graves, but at least crime scenes. I'm not going to get into the details of each crime, you can click the l

Wheelie Masters and the Journey

  Last year, riding up the road from the parking lot to the trailhead, reminded me that I absolutely sucked at a riding wheelies. After decades on a bike,I could hold the front wheel up for 10 ft at most. Even back when freeride started several of my friends learned to manual, I still had nothin'.   Then a year ago, my friend Zane started making FB posts, declaring that he was going to learn manuals, by practicing 30-40 minutes a day, every day. By the end of the summer he posted an amazing video of an endless manual down a hill. This gnawed at the back of my mind, he's over 40, I'm over 40. Maybe it is possible. Maybe wheelie skills aren't something that only the gifted are born with.   So around Christmas I started messing around popping wheelies in front of my house. I wanted to follow Zane's technique of solid repetition. I've read Malcolm Gladwell, I believed in the 10,000 hour rule.   So I tried on my own in the culdesac and got nowhere. Then I watche