Your helmet is a vital part of your derby ensemble. Sure, it’s handy for keeping your sweaty hair out of your face, and it’s a great canvas for decorating with your own personal flair, but it is also an important article for keeping you safe and healthy. Initially and most obviously, it protects you from the nasty: skull fractures. No one wants to fall and crack their head open on the rink. However, you can do serious injury without your head ever making contact with the ground. Imagine your head is like a bowl of jello. The bowl is your skull; the jello is your brain. When you give the bowl a little shake, the jello inside moves. The harder you shake, the more the jello moves, independent of the bowl itself. The same thing happens in your head. When you move and then stop suddenly, your brain moves within your skull. The faster you move and the more sudden you stop, the more your brain moves. As you may imagine, your brain isn’t meant to move that much inside your skull. This movement can cause what is called acceleration-deceleration injury - pretty much how it sounds: your brain accelerates and then decelerates suddenly. These traumatic brain injuries can bring with them a variety of outcomes. The worst case scenarios: (aside from cracking your head open and bleeding out) can include rupturing a blood vessel within the brain, getting a hematoma, causing pressure in the brain, etc. All of these things can ultimately kill you. There are also less serious outcomes from these injuries. Less serious in that you don’t die; they’re still pretty bad. These outcomes can range from deafness, blindess and aphasia (an impairment of language ability,) to cognitive, social, behavioral or emotional disabilities. The more mild forms of brains injuries are known as concussions. Most concussions are fairly mild. You get into trouble if you don’t let yourself heal properly afterward, or if you get multiple concussions. Post concussion syndrome can include headaches, anxiety, memory loss, sleep problems and irritability. Symptoms of post concussion syndrome can take weeks, months or even years to resolve. Every time you have a brain injury, you’re more susceptible to having another brain injury. The more times you have a concussion, the easier it is for the brain to concuss. You can’t say x number of concussions are okay, but x plus 1 are bad. It depends on the frequency and severity of previous concussions. The effects of multiple concussions (or even just one concussion) can include difficulty concentrating, headaches, aphasia, memory loss and personality changes. So now that you know all the nasty things that can happen to you if you don’t wear a helmet, what do you do? Why, wear a helmet, of course! You want to choose one that fits correctly. The wonderful people at your local skate shop can help you with this. Something to keep in mind: not all helmets are created equal. You need to get a skate helmet, not a bike helmet. The foam inside a bike helmet is intended to gradually decelerate the head. It assumes you are going at high speeds and have had a major crash (with a car, for example.) While you may feel like you’ve been hit by a car when that other blocker slams into you, it is by no means a similar collision. Also, bike helmets are only meant to work once: after you’ve had an accident where you hit your head (and your helmet saved you from injury,) you need to get rid of the helmet and get a new one. Skate helmets, with the hard plastic shell, are designed to displace the force of impact, rather than decelerate. The skate helmet assumes slower speeds and less car crashes. Also, skate helmets can be worn after a collision because, unlike a bike helmet, the foam inside doesn't collapse. Long story short(er), wearing a helmet isn’t important just because WFTDA and your team captain tells you to. It can literally save your life so you can skate again another day. So go out and find yourself a good looking one, add some stickers, paint and flair, and wear your helmet with derby pride.
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