Earlier in the year, BMX great Dave Mirra was found dead. His death wasn’t the result of natural causes or even an accident. Mirra’s death was the result of suicide. His death left friends, family and fans asking, “Why?” Several theories emerged in the days following the news of his death. One of the most widely accepted was that Mirra suffered from CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
CTE is a degenerative brain condition that is known to be caused by repeated concussions. People who suffer from CTE must deal with problems surrounding impulse control, progressive dementia and depression. While all athletes are certainly at risk for developing CTE, it is professional football and hockey players that are at the highest risk.
Unfortunately, without a brain autopsy, it is impossible to say whether Mirra suffered with CTE. However, the fact that he committed suicide and an increasing awareness of CTE is leading many cyclists to question whether or not they, too, are at risk of developing CTE.
According to the director of the NeuroTrauma Researcher Laboratory in Michigan, Steve Broglio, “Cyclists have little to fear from the long-term effects of concussions.” Why? Because while cyclists may be at risk for traumatic brain injury due to a hard fall, they rarely suffer as many concussions as Mirra did.
Researchers who have studied CTE have discovered that it is the result of repeated concussions, not the result of a single brain injury. Broglio says that the way that CTE is portrayed often leads people to believe that a single incident will eventually result in the condition. This is not so and the effects of CTE can be “blow out of proportion.”
Cyclists who are concerned about sustaining repeated concussions and thus developing CTE can take measures to protect themselves. Here are five things that cyclists can do to help protect themselves.
1. Wear a Helmet
It’s not enough to just wear any helmet. Take your time to choose the correct helmet for your needs. You will find recreational, road bike and mountain bike helmets. Choose the one that fits your needs to the majority of the time. Look for one with a strong shell and a Multi-directional Impact Protection System (MIPS). Pick a helmet that fits your head properly by first measuring the largest part of your head: About 1 inch above your eyebrows. If you are between sizes, choose the smaller size.
2. Have a SCAT or ImPACT Test
Many medical professionals recommend that racers or freestyle bike riders have an ImPACT test prior to the start of the season and then again at the end of the season. This test will assess the health of your brain, and it is especially important if you have had a concussion before. Testing at the end of the season will determine if your brain has sustained any changes. This test will let medical professionals know if you are at risk of CTE.
3. Follow the Rules of the Road
One of the best things you can do to avoid a concussion is to avoid an accident in the first place. While there are certainly accidents that you won’t be able to avoid, following the rules of the road will go a long way toward insuring your safety. Keep in mind that bicycles are considered vehicles under local law, and you are required to follow the same laws as you would if you were operating a car. Ride with traffic, obey signals and pay attention to road signs. Keep the earbuds out and your eyes on the road.
4. Stay Visible
If you don’t want a driver to hit you, make sure that they can see you. Light clothing is not enough at night, contrary to popular belief. The better choice is neon or brightly colored clothes and reflectors. Chances are that you aren’t going to sew reflectors on your clothing, but you can go out and purchase a roll of reflective tape. Place a strip across your shoulders, on your chest and on the heel of each shoe. If your helmet is not reflective, place a strip on the back and front of your helmet as well. When drivers can see you, they are less likely to hit you by mistake.
5. Build Upon Your Skills
Sure, the tricks you see more experienced riders performing are amazing, and you may be tempted to try them. Don’t. If you are interested in performing tricks on your bike or even riding hundreds of miles, build upon your skill set. Start with the basics and go from there. Don’t assume that you can do what others can do straight out of the gate. When you attempt to do things that are outside of your skill set or endurance level, you are more likely to sustain an injury.
Bicyclists, like any other athletes, are susceptible to traumatic brain injury. Doing your part to stay safe will greatly reduce your risk. Follow the tips above to help ensure you are as safe as you can be when you head out on two wheels.
If you have been involved in a bicycle accident or sustained a traumatic brain injury in West Palm Beach, you may be entitled to compensation under current Florida law. Call our team of Florida bicycle injury attorneys for a free case evaluation today. We are here to assist you and your family as you attempt to put the pieces of your life back together.