Traumatic Brain Injury Mostly Associated with Cycling

There has been a great deal of attention recently given to brain injuries and sports, specifically the relationship between the cumulative effects of concussions and contact sports, such as football. Surprisingly however, many non-contact sports and recreational activities have a high incidence of brain injuries, with cycling having the highest rate by far.

According to recent statistics reported by the American Association of Neuro Surgeons, there were over 446,000 sports related brain injuries treated in hospital emergency departments in 2009.  Of those, over 85,000 were associated with cycling, nearly doubling the next highest rated activity, which was football, with close to 47,000 reported head injuries.

Traumatic Brain Injury is defined as a blow or jolt to the head, or a penetrating injury that disrupts normal function of the brain. Concussions are the most common form of head injury. Concussions are defined as trauma-induced transient loss of mental functioning lasting less than 24 hours and may or may not be accompanied by a loss of consciousness. They are usually categorized into one of three grades:

  • Grade I – Post-Traumatic Amnesia: less than 30 minutes without loss of consciousness
  • Grade II – Post-Traumatic Amnesia: 30 minutes – 24 hours with loss of consciousness lasting less than 5 minutes
  • Grade III – Post-Traumatic Amnesia for over 24 hours with loss of consciousness lasting more than 5 minutes

Symptoms of a concussion include headaches/pressure in the head, confusion, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea or vomiting, slurred speech and fatigue.  Some other symptoms can be immediate or have a delayed onset of hours or even days, including memory problems, irritability or depression, sensitivity to light, and disorders of taste and smell. According to Dr. Vazquez-Casals, “if you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.  A physician can assess your attention, memory, coordination and other abilities and order the appropriate imaging tests, such as a CT scan or an MRI, to determine the severity of your injury.”

Dr. Gonzalo Vazquez-Casals, Neuro-Psychologist at Jamaica Hospital has experience treating cyclists who have suffered head-injuries, both in the Hospital’s TBI Unit as well as those recovering on an out patient basis. Head injuries as a result from cycling accidents can range from mild to severe, but regardless of the severity, all head injuries should be taken seriously. If not dealt with appropriately, even the most minor injury can have long-term effects.

Doctors recommend getting plenty of rest and avoiding any physical or mentally demanding activities that place unnecessary stress on the brain.  This includes any kind of exercise, driving a car, operating machinery or using a computer.  According to Dr. Vazquez-Casals, “not pushing yourself and getting proper rest after sustaining a concussion is the most important step to a complete recovery. If you are cyclist who has suffered a concussion or brain injury, don’t get back on a bicycle until you are cleared to do so by a doctor or you put yourself at risk for further, more serious injuries.”

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.