Aside from having the technique and gear that can help prevent falls or crashes, it’s important to be able to know if you’ve been injured.
A blow from a physical impact is a startling thing. At first, you may not know if something is wrong. You cautiously check out your body. Does the pain gradually fade away, making you exhale with relief? Or does something continue to hurt, maybe even get worse?
Any kind of pain after a fall should make you wary. You might not realize you’ve broken a bone in your leg until you put weight on it. The movement can actually shift a broken bone and displace it, so instead of a simple cast, you may end up needing surgery. But the pain of a broken bone is bad enough to let you know you’re hurt.
Strangely, a lot of folks ignore their injuries because it takes them a while to realize they’ve got a problem. There are two kinds of accidents where this can be dangerous. The most common is a connective tissue tear, such as one of the ligaments that connects two bones together, or a tendon that fastens a muscle to a bone. If it’s completely torn, you may not even feel much pain — at first. But as the tissues of the joint or muscle begin to swell, a nagging pain turns into a scream.
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The second kind of accident is less common, but it’s the most dangerous: You hit your head hard enough to cause a concussion. You may even lose consciousness briefly. If anyone tells you that you were out, even just for a few seconds, that’s a sure sign of a concussion. It’s a much more serious brain injury if you have no memory of what happened just before the fall, or if you feel slightly confused after it. Don’t try to get back to the parking lot yourself if you have confusion or any memory loss. Brain cells die from concussions (ask the NFL). You don’t want to risk falling again, making things worse for your brain.
Now, a caveat about helmets. Some snowmobilers and snowriders think it’s cool to wear just a beanie on their head, or nothing at all. If you have a hard fall, your body probably continues moving when you hit the snow or ice. A helmet will not only cushion your head from the impact, but it will keep sliding as you land, minimizing potential injury.
But a bare head, or one covered with a hat, will stop suddenly. If the sliding mass of your body pushes against your head even slightly, that may cause your head to rotate, increasing the movement of your brain inside the skull and making a possible concussion far more serious.
Another serious problem is a refusal to admit injury. It’s a nice day, you’re with friends and you’re having fun. You don’t want it to end with a sled ride down the hill. You tell yourself you’re OK, even if others warn you not to take chances and insist they’re fine with having you end the day’s fun. Even worse are friends who tell you to suck it up and continue. They’re not the ones who will be out for the season because they encouraged you to do something that made your injury worse.
Never forget the two signs that you need to stop your activity and get immediate medical care: Continuous pain in a major joint such as the knee or shoulder; or a hard hit to the head resulting in headache or confusion.