Even as an optimistic young cyclist I realize that it is imperative to prepare for the possibility of a crash—and I'm talking about going beyond helmet use! If we have not personally had an encounter with the ground, we all know friends who have. It's usually ugly. One way to prepare is to obtain a concussion baseline test.
It is scary how little our community of cyclists know about concussions. This became especially apparent to me and the team after a visit to our winter camp by Dr. Eric Freitag, a Bay Area neuropsychologist and qualified medical examiner, who works with professional cycling teams and high school football teams alike. With this visit, each teammate was individually tested for neuroprocessing speed, pattern recognition, memory, and balance. This involved quantitatively testing your brain's normal ability to balance, normal ability to recognize patterns, and normal ability to remember words and shapes. These are the areas that are most affected by a concussion. In the case of a concussive crash by a teammate of mine, or anyone else who has completed Dr. Freitag's baseline test, they would be subsequently retested to check for changes from the norm, or our personalized baseline. This analysis would be used to safely asses the recovery of the brain.
The most meaningful part of Dr. Freitag's visit is understanding further what a concussion actually is and the range of symptoms associated with it. I was surprised at how easy it was to mis-manage such a covert condition. One such problem is engaging in risky activities like riding too soon after a concussive episode. Reason being, your brain is especially vulnerable to serious injury after a concussion when it is in a rebuilding phase. This is why it is so important to have an assessment—the green light—before you begin risky activities (cycling, football, skateboarding, parkour, etc) after a concussion. I am happy to know that there is a file available and a doctor with the training and experience to manage me in case of an accident. I know that even if I suffer a concussion, I will get the proper care, with rest and proper mental stimulation, and will be able to ride again safely.
Visit Dr. Freitag here.