I layer my warmest clothes, lace up my skates, tighten my scarf, and the last thing I do before I put blade to ice is fasten my helmet.
Skating has quickly become our favourite winter family pastime. A recent afternoon trip to our local outdoor rink left me confused and surprised. In the span of about two hours I watched at least 50 adults skate out onto that rink and I was one of only two who was wearing a helmet.
Concussions, especially in children, have become sort of a hot button issue in recent years and most of us would not imagine sending our little ones out on the ice without a helmet. Even when they cry and complain that their helmet hurts, or that it pulls their hair or makes them sweat too much - we don’t give them a choice. It’s either the helmet, or you stay off the ice. Safety first and all.
Is there a magic age when one becomes immune to a head injury?
As I watched dozens upon dozens of helmetless skaters gliding around the rink, I wondered why I was one of the only adults who felt that a helmet was a necessary part of my skating attire.
Maybe for some its vanity, preferring the look of cute knit hats over big bulky head protection.
Maybe some feel safe on ice. Perhaps they have been skating since they could walk and they feel like they have it all under control.
The problem is, no matter how long you have been skating or how comfortable you are on the ice you can still fall down.
To be honest, my main motivation is to set an example for my kids. I’m not an expert skater at all but I have been on ice since I was a kid – my Dad used to make an ice rink in our backyard when I was little. I’m comfortable. Though I’ve come close, tripping over the little ones that somehow manage to get themselves underfoot each time, I’ve never had a bad fall yet. Wait where’s the wood for me to knock on? Yet, it’s clear to me that it only takes one unexpected fall to change my life forever.
Why, as adults, are we willing to risk that type of injury?
Every time we get in a car we buckle our seatbelt, even though the chance of getting into a car accident is slim.
Shouldn’t wearing a helmet be as second nature as buckling a seatbelt when we get in the car?
Last Sunday, as I enjoyed an afternoon outdoors with my son, I watched three older adults with no helmets on, take hard falls. They were all confident skaters. They all seemed very in control as they took their turns around the ice. What they didn’t have control over was the other skaters around them. Little kids just learning to skate, older kids roughhousing with each other as well as some young adults who were obviously getting back on skates after years away. One lady didn’t even see it coming as a boy slid up right behind her, hitting her in the back of the knees, sending her tumbling backwards and landing with a thud on her back. I heard her head smack the ice. I could see the confusion in her eyes as I asked if she was ok.
The look in her eyes reminded me of when my own husband who, as a trained boxer is hyper aware of head injuries, fell hard while we were enjoying the ice slides at Winterlude in Ottawa. Before he even knew what was happening, the back of his head hit the ice and he was left dazed, sore and confused. Our family weekend ended with a trip to the ER where doctors ruled out a serious injury but did warn of the dangers of a concussion and other brain injuries and prescribed rest and a few days away from the ice.
We are all vulnerable.
I’m putting a call out to ask everyone, all ages and all skill levels to wear helmets when hitting the ice. Do it for yourself. Even if you really think that you aren’t in need of protective, gear wear it anyway to set an example for all the kids who are sharing the ice with you. Wear a helmet for my kids so that one day they won’t fight me on it because they think it’s not cool and no one else is wearing one.
Please wear a helmet so that eventually it becomes as second nature as buckling a seatbelt.