Fell Off Your Horse and Hit Your Head? You Might Have a Dangerous Closed Head Injury
The brain swells, and you might not notice until it's too late
Closed head injuries can happen in any sport. They can even happen if you fall in the shower and hit your head. Horseback riders are at particular risk for this kind of injury if they fall off your horse while riding or jumping. Even just riding around an arena can put you at risk.
The problem is that because there is usually no blood, people underestimate the seriousness of their injury. Just a bump on the head, they think. Take an aspirin and I'll be fine. But the brain begins to swell inside the skull, and the pressure imposed on fragile brain tissue can be life-threatening.
So that is why an article in EQUUS magazine caught my attention. It described an incredible story about a young woman whose horse collapsed while she was riding in an indoor arena alone at night. The woman hit her helmeted head hard enough on the arena floor to black out, and could barely move when she came around.
If that isn’t bad enough, this is where the story gets really scary. Rather than calling the paramedics, she decided she needed to get back on the horse so she wouldn’t be afraid to ride again. (That’s what we’ve all been told, right?) Then she untacked her horse, and drove herself to the ER.
Yes, she drove herself to the ER.
At the ER, she found she only had suffered a concussion. She was lucky. What could have happened is much worse: a closed head injury.
Natasha Richardson (Liam Neeson’s wife) died of just such an injury following a skiing accident. If you hit your head hard, there is a chance that the brain itself or it’s blood vessels are damaged. This can cause bleeding and swelling in the brain. As the brain continues to swell with no way out (of the skull), brain damage, coma, or ultimately death can result.
The safe thing to do if you suffer a head injury is to head to the ER to see if you need to have a CAT scan done.
Copyright Denise Cummins, PhD
The Thinking Equestrian