A father was riding his bike with his toddler in the carrying seat behind him. Neither was wearing a helmet, and the father was juggling his cell phone with one hand and steering the bike through the crowded grocery store parking lot with the other. Three teenage boys were jumping from the cement ground on their skateboards onto a rickety wood picnic table outside a closed cafe and doing mid-air flips off the picnic table. None of them were wearing any protective gear. Two true scenarios witnessed on a warm summer day in a typical suburban neighborhood. Unfortunately, these types of activities seem to be far more common than people playing it safe.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), the most recent statistics from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) indicate that there were an estimated 319,000 sports-related head injuries treated in US hospital emergency rooms in 2006, an increase of 10,000 injuries from the year before.
The growing popularity of powered recreational vehicles, such as ATVs, has contributed to many injuries, especially in children, who are often riding unattended by an adult and not wearing helmets. The CPSC reports the following real-life, tragic incidents. A 16-year old boy tried to jump his ATV over a ditch, crashed and landed on large boulders. He was not wearing a helmet and died from his head injuries. A 14-year old boy crashed his ATV and died from a skull fracture in the ER - he was not wearing a helmet. An 11-year-old girl crashed her go-cart and died from massive head injuries.
And aside from head injuries, an estimated 11,000 people sustain spinal cord injuries (SCIs) every year in the United States. Diving accidents are among the top five causes of SCIs, and sporting and recreation-related accidents in general, contribute to a large number of these incidents among people age 29 and younger.
The following are the top 10 sports and recreation-related activities contributing to head injuries in 2006:
-          Cycling: 65,319
-          Football: 34,638
-          Powered Recreational Vehicles (ATVs, Dune Buggies, Go-Carts, Mini bikes,
-          Off-road): 28,585
-          Basketball: 25,788
-          Baseball and Softball: 23,125
-          Water Sports (Diving, Scuba Diving, Surfing, Swimming, Water Polo, Water
-          Skiing): 16,060
-          Skateboards/Scooters: 15,978
-          Soccer: 15,208
-          Fitness/Exercise (including at health clubs): 11,895
-          Horseback Riding: 9,260
Many of these injuries are preventable by following simple safety precautions. By taking a minute or two to use your head, you can help prevent potentially life-altering and tragic consequences. The AANS offers the following injury prevention tips:
-        Buy and use helmets or protective head gear approved by the ASTM for specific sports 100% of the time.
-        Wear appropriate clothing for the sport.
-        Do not participate in sports when you are ill or very tired.
-        Discard and replace sporting equipment or protective gear that is damaged.
-        Never slide head-first when stealing a base.
-        Obey all traffic signals, and be aware of drivers when cycling or skateboarding.
-        Avoid uneven or unpaved surfaces when cycling, skateboarding or inline skating.
-        Supervise younger children at all times, and do not let them use sporting equipment or play sports unsuitable for their age. Do not let them use playgrounds with hard surface grounds.
-        Perform regular safety checks of sports fields, playgrounds and equipment.
-        Do not dive in water less than nine feet deep or in above-ground pools. Check the depth  and check for debris in the water before diving.
-        Follow all rules and warning signs at water parks, swimming pools and public beaches.
-        Football players should receive adequate preconditioning and strengthening of the head and neck muscles.
-        Proper football blocking and tackling techniques must be taught and followed.
The AANS has free downloadable fact sheets on injury prevention at www.NeurosurgeryToday.org, under Patient Safety Tips.
Founded in 1931 as the Harvey Cushing Society, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) is a scientific and educational association with more than 7,200 members worldwide. The AANS is dedicated to advancing the specialty of neurological surgery in order to provide the highest quality of neurosurgical care to the public. All active members of the AANS are certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (Neurosurgery) of Canada or the Mexican Council of Neurological Surgery, AC. Neurological surgery is the medical specialty concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of disorders that affect the entire nervous system, including the spinal column, spinal cord, brain and peripheral nerves.


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