Recently a friend of ours had a crash on the weekend club run. Nothing too serious, but he broke his helmet (not his head thankfully) in two, and after a few minutes was back on his bike and able to ride home. Later in the evening he couldn’t remember anything about what had happened.

He went to the doctor the next day and was given a roasting and told to stay off the bike for three weeks as he had concussion. I feel bad about this because we let him ride home and apparently that’s a bad idea with concussion, even though he was very happy to carry on.

My question is, how do you know if someone has got concussion? He seemed perfectly OK and was laughing about it at the time.

Brian O’Neil, email

Brian, I’m not surprised the doctor came down hard on you as riding with concussion is a very bad idea. People with concussion suffer from a number of symptoms and there is a high instance of casualties suffering further injuries when concussed due to disorientation from the initial blow to the head.

Overly simplified, concussion can knock the senses out of you, so you can imagine that riding a bicycle, with its inherent demands on balance, spatial awareness and interpretation of road and traffic conditions is just about the last thing you’d want to be doing.

Cyclists are at risk of such injuries from crashes and there are a number of symptoms that might manifest themselves immediately or some time following the incident which can indicate concussion.

Dizziness and confusion are common and sometimes a glazed appearance in the eyes is noticeable. More obvious is when sufferers repeatedly ask the same questions, often “where am I?” or “has there been an accident,” despite repeatedly being given the same answer. However, these symptoms are not always present.

Concussion can also result in inappropriate emotional responses too, which is possibly why your friend tried to laugh off the incident.

If you have a rider sitting on the ground following a crash that was hard enough to smash a helmet I’d be very reluctant to let them go near a bike, just to be on the safe side. There is a possibility that a bang on the head can result in cerebral compression, a worst-case scenario where swollen brain tissue leads to accumulation of blood between the brain and the skull which can be life threatening.

The bottom line is to treat any head injury as serious even if it appears to be less so and understand that the person least able to tell you the extent of the injury is the rider themselves.

Huw Williams is a BC Level 3 coach

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  • Helen

    From the point of view of someone who’s had concussion I can vouch for the fact that you’re the last person to know about it. It felt like someone had taken my brain and wiped it clean of any information about anything. And yes I did, apparently, keep asking if there had been an accident. Bits of memory came back gradually but at one stage I didn’t actually know what my name was. The ambulance drivers also asked me what day of the week it was, which annoyed me as I don’t usually know that anyway.

    Fortunately I was OK and within 24 hours my memory of pretty much everything, except the actual fall, came back. But I would say that if someone whacks their head, don’t let them cycle, drive or in my case, ride a horse. It just isn’t worth it. Get them to a doctor and whatever you do, do not leave them at home on their own. There’s an outside chance they’ll fall asleep and won’t ever wake up.