Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Yes to Helmets for Snowboarders

I give an emphatic yes to the proposal to require the use of helmets for skiers and snowboarders under 18 by California state Assemblymember Dave Jones and Senator Leland Yee. Many children are permanently disabled or killed from snowboarding injuries and often it may be preventable by wearing the right helmet.

Our experience shows that snowboarding without a helmet can be incredibly dangerous, even in seemingly safe situations. On February 13, 2004, our previously healthy 10-year-old son was knocked unconscious while taking a snowboarding class on a school field trip to Lake Tahoe. As a result of his concussion, for the past five years he suffered long periods of unremitting nausea and other central nervous system disruptions such as being unable to fall asleep until 4 or 5 in the morning. Due to the extremity of his symptoms, he missed weeks of school in 3rd grade, months of school in 4th and 5th grade, the second half of 7th grade, almost all of 8th grade and most of the first half of 9th grade.

It took us a long time to get to the bottom of our son's illness and to get it properly treated. Over the last 6 years we have consulted 3 pediatricians, 2 pediatric gastroenterlogists, 1 pediatric endocrinologist, 1 pediatric neurologist, 1 pediatric ear nose and throatologist, the Stanford Sleep Medicine center, the Mayo Clinic, 2 osteopaths, 1 network chiropractor, a somatic therapist, a cranio-sacral therapist, an Alexander Technique teacher, Maori healers, psychic healers, a shaman and a partridge in a pear tree. The conditions has been called and treated variously as a concussion, leaky gut syndrome and secondary adrenal insufficiency.

What happened on the day of the injury is that the snowboarding instructors apparently ran out of snowboarding helmets, disregarded our written instructions for him to wear a snowboarding helmet, and instead gave him a bike helmet to wear. In this case, wearing a bike helmet may have been more dangerous than no helmet at all. Because most bike injuries fall forward, bike helmets predominantly protect the front of the head. Many snow-related falls however are backward, so, like a motorcycle helmet, snowboarding helmets have to cover the whole back of the head.

What we believe now is that when our son fell he fell backward hard onto packed icy snow such that the edge of the bike helmet torqued into his head not only rendering him unconscious but causing a plate in his head to compress the vagus nerve, causing the nausea and the central nervous system dysfunction.

After these 5 long years, our son is finally well (the chiropractor and physical therapist doing the final trick of decompressing the vagus nerve), back in school and leading a normal life. Our bank account is slowly recovering from its own slow hemorrhaging. And our family unit is finding its equibilibrium without the constant crisis of health. But I'd give anything not to have put our boy and our family through this. One simple law would have done it. There's no way a school field trip would've flauted that law.

I applaud Assemblymember Dave Jones, a strong consistent champion of consumers, for leading the charge in California to protect our kids from the consequences of these inherently dangerous sports. I'd like to know if you also have stories out there that should be shared.

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