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How to Prevent Head Injuries This Summer

Aug 10, 2021

By Adam Thompson, D.O., sports medicine physician at Premier

School is out and summer vacation is here! Many of us will beat the heat this summer in the water. Pools, oceans, lakes, rivers, and even ponds offer an oasis away from the sun’s broiling heat. But with water comes inherent risks. Obviously, swimming unsupervised or in dangerous currents can result in outcomes we do not want to imagine, but a series of lesser dangers lurk under the surface – one of them is head injuries.

Water-related head injuries can happen in a variety of ways and in numerous circumstances.

Let’s review some common ones and treatment options:

Ocean – Lets include all saltwater in this category.

The biggest risk here is neck and back injury from hitting the bottom. Every year some unfortunate folks down the shore bodysurf or dive into shallow water resulting in neck and spine injuries. When this occurs, it is best to get the victim out of the water and immediately call 911. Someone who has suffered this kind of injury must be assessed immediately by a physician.

Also, never jump off a structure (bridge or pier) into saltwater. Underwater hazards can result in catastrophic injury. Don’t do it!

Finally, take care when operating vehicles on the water. While fun, operating boats and jet skis under the wrong circumstances can lead to injury. Common injuries include whiplash, concussion, and fractures. Make sure you are aware of your surroundings and ride in/on the vehicle properly. Have fun but be careful.

Pools – There is nothing like a refreshing dip in the pool to cool off on a hot summer day. But just like the ocean many people hurt their head, neck, and spine hitting the bottom or side. Always know the depth of the water you are diving into and avoid going head first. If you or someone does hit their head call 911.

Concussions are a rather common injury in pools. Not only the result of hitting your head on the side or bottom but also contact with another person. Accidental kicks, knees or elbows to the head can cause concussions. And it isn’t just in backyard pools. We see this injury from some of our league or school swimmers who bump into a teammate or foe in the water. If this happens remove the person from the pool at once and alert the person in charge. Concussions can be slow or fast to materialize symptoms, so it is best to rest and evaluate.

We would be remiss to not mention one other source of head, neck and spine injuries that see an uptick during the summer months. Bicycles. More people ride bikes this time of year than any other. Whether it is a beach cruiser down the shore or the local group of kids in the neighborhood bicycle accidents can result in severe injury. Always wear a helmet and never wear flip flops or loose-fitting sandals while riding. Be aware of your surroundings, especially in traffic, and keep your phone away. Most bike injuries are minor but bad spills, accidents with pedestrians or other bikes, or cars, can lead to bad injury and should be treated by a medical professional.

It is our hope that this summer is relaxing and cool by the pool (or beach). But please keep in mind the risks and responsibilities that come with being in the water.