Understanding Mountain Bike Concussion

Understanding Mountain Bike Concussion


– Whoa, whoa, whoa! Don’t switch over, you haven’t accidentally tuned into GCN. I know I spend most of my life poncing around in Lycra over there. But deep down, I’m a
mountain biker as well. So today, I’ve got a guest pass to come onto GMBN and to talk
concussion and mountain bikes. Concussion in sport is becoming
a massive issue recently. Some of the world’s biggest contact sports are having to come to
terms with just how serious hitting your head actually is. But as mountian bikers, we can experience concussion as well. Especially when you fall
off as much as I seem to. Which is why I’ve been invited by POC to come to Sweden to
talk to Per Hamid Ghatan, M.D. PhD, to find out
more about concussion. Besides being a leading expert in head trauma and brain injury, Ghatan, who has specialized
in the rehabilitation of patients with brain
injuries since the late 80s, is also a member of the POC lab. The POC lab is a collective of experts from various industries that take a holistic approach to safety to advise POC on the products they produce to ensure they’re the
best they can possibly be. This makes Ghatan the perfect person to ask a few questions about concussion. So let’s start at the beginning. What then, is concussion? – [Ghatan] Concussion is
where you have an impact that transmits energy through
the skull into the brain. – [Presenter] And if you think you have suffered a concussion, what are the symptoms? – If you have a head injury
and you sustain a concussion, you find you have a
headache, you might be dizzy, you might have nausea, you
might be light sensitive, sound sensitive, problems
in focusing your attention, also fatigue and fatigue ability problems. – [Presenter] But recent high-profile and sadly tragic stories around sports injuries have put the issue of concussion and its related
chronic long-term conditions under a fresh spotlight. And it isn’t as simple or as
trivial as we all thought. – Up til now, we have had
the view that 85% recover within three months and 15%
have developed chronic symptoms. But the challenge today is that, actually, when we look into statistics and actually the investigation of
patients after concussions, indicates that there are more
people having chronic symptoms than we thought earlier. So we need to reevaluate concussions, that they might be more severe. You know, because I meet
a lot of colleagues now that are working with sports and the challenge of concussions. And in some sports, the person who has sustained a concussion, he wants to go, or she wants to go back straight to the race. But it’s obvious that the person
is not functioning properly so it becomes a conflict
between the individual who wants to continue based on whatever, you know, competitive people. It’s in American football. I mean, they have been neglecting the problem for years, right? And hockey, this has been underestimated. But there are more sports, like handball, also more across motor
scooters, et cetera, that there is a problem in sports. So I think that today’s thought leaders, when it comes to handling
it, is in sports. And we need to provide them with better tools to monitor concussions. And through that, also develop better assessment methods than we have. – [Presenter] If you
suffer from a concussion, how long can it last for? – Because most people think that, if you have an impact, Bang! And it’s over. But that’s not reality. The impact, the energy transmitted through the brain triggers
a lot of mechanisms that can continue for days, weeks, months, without having, you know, without any sharing of the tissue, which with the consequences
of having a hemorrhage, or sort of bleedings
or anything like that. – [Presenter] Most mild
concussions will resolve in a couple of weeks to a few months. But more severe concussions can lead to longer term, chronic issues. If you’ve had a concussion
and you’re suffering from any of the symptoms
that can affect balance, reaction times, and other
cognitive abilities, it’s best to stop riding and go and get properly checked out. And if you are concussed,
make sure you give yourself plenty of time to properly recover. – People are not really aware
of how to handle themselves and also the relationship
between the symptoms that they have and what they’re doing. So people return too early back to work or to studies, and they push themselves. And then they develop some
sort of fatigue syndrome which might be like a
fatigue depression, actually, where the symptoms increase. And research today is looking
a lot at that concussion, might trigger an inflammation
that continues over time. And with behavior interacting, especially if you’re not considering that you need to be active in intervals, considering having some sort of rest. Not pushing yourself beyond the threshold where symptoms increase, but actually you should be active at an optimal level rather than at a maximum level. People push themselves,
and then they just see this kind of stress
affecting the consequences of the concussion, that might actually make it more chronic. – [Presenter] As mountain bikers, we balance risk and reward every time we head out for a ride. But sometimes that
balance can tip too far, and we’ll have a big off. Most of us have. We’ll get up, shake it off, and then probably think nothing more of it. But if we have hit our head,
is that really the end of it? – [Ghatan] If you have had a concussion and have recovered, you
should be precautious, because if you have another concussion, it might add up. So even if you have a light
concussion the second time, the consequence of having two might make the consequences much, much worse. So, I mean, we should be active. I’m not, in any way, talking
against that, the opposite. But we need to be aware and
use protective equipment to minimize the risk. I think that’s the most important. And then through design,
making it attractive in using protective measures. – [Presenter] Making
it look cool so people actually want to wear it. I mean, I managed to,
together with a colleague, make a, you know, influence the politician
administrator in Sweden to actually legislate for
bicycle helmets for kids. Because I’ve seen the consequences. The price is too high for people. And so, you know, 20, 30 years ago, the people, their argument would be that, “Oh, it affects my hair,
you know? My haircut.” I mean, the brain is a super hard disk. It’s all there, right? So you need to take care of it. And if people are aware of
how sensitive the brain is, I know that people start
using protective equipment. And in Sweden, we see,
especially with the commuters, we see that they have
increased using helmets. So, I mean, the stupidity
is somewhere like in boxing, where you actually aim at hitting
the head of somebody else. I am against that. It might be an excellent
way of exercising. But, you know, don’t
give repetitive violence to the head because, yeah. “I was a great sportsman,” you know, an athlete like Muhammad
Ali, for instance. But, you know, the
price they pay later on. And we know that, when it
comes to severe brain injuries, 50% of them have amyloid plaque, which is what you see in Dementia. So what are the long term consequences? You might have had sustained a
head injury with a concussion or a moderate head injury
when you were in your teens. But 20 years later, – [Presenter] That plaque is still there. – And so far, the healthcare
system is not monitoring that. We are not, we have, in Sweden, we have these kind of quality, we collect data, and we
follow people, so far, when it comes to head
injuries, up to 15 years now. And we see that people
improve, which is important. But I have been working 30 years and I see that people
have actually deteriorated with something called Cognitive Decline. So you might actually,
having head injuries, you might decrease your
buffer capacity of your brain, in having a lifelong, you know. If you develop dementia in the age of 70 like some of the Swedish boxers. Was that because they were boxing when they were in their twenties? It’s hard to tell, but why take the risk? – [Presenter] Of course,
mountain biking isn’t boxing. No-one is repeatedly punching your head each and every time we go out for a ride. But crashes can, and do, happen. And research shows that wearing a helmet reduces the risks of serious
head injury by nearly 70%. It’s no surprise then,
that the expert advice is that wearing a helmet
is an important way to prevent a concussion. But just as important is knowing and riding within our
abilities, the terrain, and being free of distractions. At the end of the day,
it’s simply a case of minimizing risk for maximum fun. Which is, after all, a
big part of why we ride. I found it absolutely
fascinating spending the day with the experts from POC, learning so much about an
injury that I had years ago. If you’ve got a concussion
story you want to share with us, drop it in the comments below. I’m off to find my Lycra.