early season safety thread - concussions
I thought I would share this in hopes it will help someone stay safe this season. Many of us here donít have any experience with concussions from paddling.
Last Saturday, I took a big hit to the head and left arm in Gore rapid just below decision. I had not taken a knock like that since my early days kayaking, or maybe even since I played football. I rolled up and, after a couple minutes in an eddy, headed downstream with the rest of the group. I finished the run without incident and had a great time doing it.
One of my friends and I had planned to paddle the canyon again on Sunday, so we camped at the takeout Saturday night. I felt a bit rattled that evening, but had no headache, dizziness, or anything else that would indicate something was wrong with my brain. My appetite for food was huge, and I slept great.
Around first light, I got out of my tent. I saw a few stars, but wrote it off to just going quickly from lying on the ground to standing. However, I started to notice over the course of the morning that I was a little disoriented and uncoordinated. Not much, just a little off.
When late morning came around and it was time to meet up with the group, I told my friend I would not be paddling that day. I had a really hard time doing this because I thought I should just suck it up, and I worried that he and the rest of the group would think I was scared or lame for backing out. Still, a little voice inside told me to just go home. I set shuttle for everyone and began the drive home.
On the way, strange things started happening. It was more difficult than usual to control the vehicle. On a few occasions, I realized that I had not been focusing on the road for a couple seconds. I got very tired. In retrospect, I realize that I should not have been driving.
When I got home, I just felt weird Ė not myself. While explaining to my wife what had happened, it became obvious that I was having trouble stringing the right words together, and I was speaking slowly. I went to see a doctor.
I had a mild concussion, of course. I learned that it can take time Ė up to 48 hours after the trauma Ė for the brain to swell enough to give rise to the symptoms of a concussion. That night, I started getting ringing in the ears. Today, four days later, I am still experiencing balance problems and having trouble focusing.
My concussion has not been a major problem, but it would have been had I paddled again on Sunday. Besides the risk of hitting my head again, which could have resulted in big time damage, I was much less than 100%. My coordination and judgment were off. Not only is it a bad idea to risk further injury, itís wrong to impose on a group and make them deal with your problems. Itís much better to take a hit to your ego.