All through the year, Scouts from all over Canada like to get outside and enjoy fun activities. Some people go biking, others skateboarding, some may even try rafting or kayaking, but no matter the activity, injuries can happen.
Some injuries may be less severe, such as scrapes, while others may be more damaging, like a concussion. Concussions can happen to anyone; in fact, according to the Canadian government, there were approximately 46,000 diagnosed concussions in 2016-2017, and up to 54% of them are sports related.
What exactly is a concussion? The brain is floating in a fluid, called the cerebrospinal fluid, and they are both protected by the skull. When a sharp blow to the head or neck, or a fall to the head occurs, the brain bangs against the skull after moving back and forth in the liquid, which in turn causes bruising to the brain. Some signs of a concussion may include; headaches or pressure in the head, sensitivity to light, sound, motions or odours, neck pain, dizziness or nausea, difficulty remembering things, feeling emotional, irritable, anxious or nervous. If you experience neck pain, double vision, loss of consciousness, frequent vomiting, seizures, or a tingling feeling in your arms and legs, call emergency medical services right away.
If you suspect that you have a concussion, tell your parents, guardian or a Scouter immediately, and remove yourself from the activity. Sit or lay down in a comfortable place and put some ice on the swelling. Always have an adult in the room with you, and make sure to go to your doctor as soon as possible.
For you to return to any activities, including Scouting, you’ve got to follow a six-step process and your doctor’s progressive plan. You must keep in mind that the time it takes to recover from a head injury will vary from person to person, and it can be a slow process. Each step should take at least 24 hours, or until cleared by a doctor. See below the step-by-step Return to Play guidelines:
Stage 1 – The first stage is no activity and complete rest; you must stay in bed and rest for 24 to 48 hours, and once cleared by a doctor, you may proceed to the next step.
Stage 2 – The second stage is light exercise; once the symptoms are gone, you may start activities such as walking or stationary cycling for up to 10-15 minutes at a time.
Stage 3 – The third stage builds on to the second one; you may now increase your activities to things like hiking and jogging, but only for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. You must also make sure that the activities you do are without contact.
Stage 4 – At the fourth stage, you may now start to participate more in meetings, you can practise low-key skills, and other activities, if they are non-contact. You may not play sports like soccer or games like dodgeball at this point.
Stage 5 – Once you have reached the fifth stage, you may return to full activities, as long as you have been cleared by a doctor. You should also be closely monitored for any symptoms before or after the exercise. If you have moved through all these steps without problems, you may now return to your regular activities.
Prevention is always key though, so how exactly do you prevent a concussion? There is no way to entirely avoid your brain from moving inside your skull if you get hit hard enough, but helmets help protect it and make it harder for you to get a concussion. There are many types of helmets, each made for its own kind of activities, so you must know which one is adapted for what you want to do.
Helmets, like life jackets, are only as good as the person who wears them; if you don’t know how to wear a helmet properly, it is not going to provide much protection. You should always refer to the “2V1” rule when wearing a helmet; two fingers above the eyebrows, the straps should form a ‘V’ under the ears, and there should be one finger between the chin and the strap. Remember; many activities in Scouting require helmets for you to participate in them!
Safety in Scouting has helped me make safer decisions outside of Scouting; since I grew up wearing helmets when biking and my Scout group has me wear helmets, I wear a fitting helmet no matter the length or distance of my trip. Every time my Troop goes skating, we wear helmets, and that has saved me from concussions multiple times. I have also started being safer in other ways; for example, I like to carry a first-aid kit with me every time I go camping.
Scouts should be prepared for any types of emergency, but we should also be safe; after all, the Scout motto is, “Be Prepared.” Concussions are a severe type of injury, and if left untreated, can cause a lot of complications later in life; some serious complications could include epilepsy and depression. It is essential to be safe and wear a helmet; after all, better safe than sorry!
Hydro One and Scouts Canada have partnered to educate youth in communities across Canada about safety, and healthy activity with the new Head Safe program. Many more resources about concussions and head safety area available here.