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Brain injuries: Do helmets and mouthguards prevent concussion?

Concussion risks for hockey players have been points of concern and multiple discussions and awareness campaigns in Ontario in recent months. Many players do not realize that concussion are brain injuries, and repeated incidents can cause permanent brain damage. Too much confidence is often put in protection such as helmets and mouthguards.

The rapid movement of the brain inside the skull causes a concussion. As it slams against the inner walls of the skull, brain cells are damaged. This could lead to dizziness, headaches and other physical symptoms along with cognitive problems with concentration, memory and more. It could also affect emotions, and some victims suffer depression after such injuries. It is a myth that concussions are only caused by blows to the head because even impact to the neck, body or face could cause a jolt of the head.

For that reason, it would be unwise to trust a helmet to prevent a concussion, although it could prevent penetration or fractures of the skull. Even with the protection of a helmet, a jolt to the body could cause the brain to smash into the skull walls. That brings up the question about the protection offered by mouthguards. Although facemasks prevent impact injuries to the face, the addition of properly fitted mouth guards can provide extra protection against oral or dental injuries in hockey players. No proof is available that mouthguards can prevent brain injuries.

Safety authorities agree that the only way to prevent or limit concussions and brain injuries in hockey players is by adjusting the behaviour of players and officials. Coaches and teachers must ensure that young players learn about the risks and the symptoms, and players are encouraged to report even the slightest discomfort. Negligence on the part of coaches and others in authority positions could lead to personal injury lawsuits that parents of injured children could file with the support and guidance of an experienced Ontario lawyer.

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