On August 5, 2000 I set off to ride the Greylock Century Ride, a grueling 100 mile ride through the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts. I had already gone up and over Mt. Greylock, the highest point in the state, and up the famous “Hairpin Turn” on Route 2, “The Mohawk Trail.”
At mile 33 I found myself off the road in a drainage ditch (I found out later they are called “paved waterways” and are designed to keep then snow melt off the road.) The waterway led to a grate. It was too steep to ride back on the road or onto the shoulder so I literally went head over heels onto the pavement, still clipped into my pedals. Continue reading →
Natasha’s Richardson’s shocking death from a head injury last week after what seemed like a minor fall on the bunny slope of a Canadian ski resort highlights how fragile our brains can be.
I have a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that I acquired in a catastrophic cycling accident in 2000, which is why I am the retired pastor who ruminates and not the still active pastor too busy to blog. I wrote a memoir of my crash called “I Lost My Marbles on the Mohawk Trail.”
Unlike Richardson I was wearing a helmet when I fell, which may have saved my life. Dr. Robert Cantu, a director of the Neurological Sports injury Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, is quoted in yesterday’s New York Times, “Had she (Richardson) been wearing a helmet she would have been alive.” Cantu said, “Helmets, although they do not prevent concussion, have a virtually 100 percent record of preventing skull fractures.”
So wearing a helmet is a good investment in your health. I ride on our local bike path, the Ashuwilticook Rail Trail , quite frequently, and am amazed at how many people ride bicycles without wearing a helmet. Here in Massachusetts there is a law that children must wear them, but I see mom and dad helmet-less while the kids wear them, which sends the message that helmets are for kids. It’s like the parents who drop the kids off for Sunday School but don’t go to church. Children get the message. And people have told me they don’t wear one because they are only on the trail and don’t go very fast, but it only takes a minor bump to do the damage, as Richardson’s injury shows.
And though a helmet can’t guarantee that you won’t sustain a TBI, it will likely lessen the impact and resulting damage and disability. We are seeing thousands of cases of TBI from troops returning from Iraq, and the human and social cost of these injuries is profound. TBIs can cause memory loss, focus and attention issues, personality changes, chronic tiredness, severe depression, inability to multitask, sleep problems, and many social problems. A psychiatrist who fell from a ladder and hit his head had to quit his practice. He told me that having a brain injury is “an exercise in patience and humility.” I have found that to be true.
So do what you can to avoid getting a TBI. If you ride or ski or participate in any sport where your head is at risk, do yourself and those you love a favor. Wear a helmet.