Tour de France and Head Injuries

British Victory?

As Le Tour begins on 30 June this year, British interest is strong in the form of Bradley Wiggins and World Champion Mark Cavendish.  Whoever wins, we hope Le Tour is not remembered for head injuries, unlike last year, which saw no fewer than three riders suffer concussion in just one week of racing.

Who decides if a rider keeps racing?

The fact that riders soldiered on despite having impaired cognitive ability, raises the issue of who should decide whether a rider can keep racing after a traumatic brain injury or TBI, the medical term for concussion.  Riders who continue with a TBI risk causing another crash and slow their healing progress by raising their heart rates.

Cycling Head Injury Protocol

The Garmin-Cervélo team doctor, Prentice Steffen, has devised a protocol to evaluate cycling head injuries that is kept inside the team car.  All staff are trained on using it and even in the absence of obvious injury to the head or damage to the helmet, will question a rider for signs of confusion, memory loss, loss of consciousness, imbalance, or any other behaviour that indicates he does not have normal baseline mental functioning.

Head Injury Symptoms

TBI symptoms can be as mild as a headache or more serious including confusion, dizziness, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound or balance problems.  Symptoms that may emerge later include anhedonia - an absence of emotions, loss of memory, difficulty concentrating, loss of senses like taste or smell or problems controlling emotions and rage.

Head Injury Timescale

"Most head injuries are evident in the first hour after an accident," Steffen said, but the symptoms of a more serious problem may not show up right away.  The protocol stipulates riders must be with someone for six hours following the race due to possible complications like intracranial haemorrhage.  A rider with head injury is also prohibited from flying for three days as rapid changes in atmospheric pressure can affect blood flow in injured parts of the brain.

Head Injury UK

At Head Injury UK our specialist solicitors see the impact a head injury can have on the victim and their family, and support any steps aside from the use of helmets, that make the sport of cycling safer.  We only hope that use of the cycling head injury protocol will become standard practice.  If you or someone close to you has suffered a head injury whilst cycling or in any other way, and it was due to someone else’s fault, please contact Andy Shaw of Head Injury UK, to see how he can help you get the rehabilitation and compensation you deserve.

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